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Navigating Geopolitical Uncertainty in the Semiconductor Industry

TL;DR

  • Investors like ACM Research for its growth in the chip industry, but its China ties bring risks.
  • ACM makes key chip equipment but mostly sells through a Chinese arm, sparking worries.
  • ACM shows promise financially, but risks linger due to geopolitics and losses.

As 2024 unfolds, investors are drawn to the semiconductor industry, driven by optimism about a new bull market. Among the companies experiencing a surge in interest are semiconductor giants like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices. However, smaller players like ACM Research (NASDAQ: ACMR) have also caught the attention of investors, witnessing a significant uptick in stock performance.

ACM Research, a chip manufacturing equipment company, has seen its stock rise by 50% in the first few months of 2024 and an impressive 270% since the beginning of 2023. The company’s growth is attributed to its better-than-expected growth and profit outlook, fueled by a surge in demand for its semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Positioning in the semiconductor landscape

While major players like Lam Research and Tokyo Electron dominate the chip manufacturing equipment sector, ACM Research has carved out a niche by providing critical equipment for cleaning silicon wafers between manufacturing process steps. This aspect of semiconductor manufacturing is crucial for various applications, including power management devices, sensors, logic, and memory chips.

Despite being a Silicon Valley-based company, ACM Research operates primarily through its majority-owned subsidiary, ACM Shanghai. This subsidiary, which had an initial public offering in China a few years ago, accounts for most of ACM Research’s sales. While this setup raises concerns about geopolitical risks, especially amidst tightening export controls between the U.S. and China, ACM Research maintains transparency about its operational structure.

In 2023, ACM Research reported a remarkable 43% increase in sales, reaching $558 million, with a particularly strong performance in the fourth quarter, where sales surged by 56% year-over-year. Management remains optimistic about the company’s growth trajectory, projecting a further revenue increase of up to 30% in 2024, with expectations ranging from $650 million to $725 million.

Despite operating in a highly cyclical industry, ACM Research appears attractively valued, with shares trading 24 times trailing 12-month earnings per share (EPS) and 19 times EPS based on Wall Street’s consensus estimates for 2024. Considering the company’s rapid growth and potential for long-term expansion, this valuation seems modest, especially amidst global efforts to onshore semiconductor manufacturing in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Investor considerations and analyst insights

While ACM Research presents a compelling investment opportunity, investors should weigh geopolitical risks, particularly concerning U.S.-China relations and export controls. Despite the company’s focus on less advanced semiconductor manufacturing processes, potential regulatory changes could impact its operations and financial performance.

Furthermore, it’s essential to consider ACM Research’s financial position, particularly its operating cash flow. While the company has been operating at a loss on a free-cash-flow basis due to its aggressive expansion strategy, its positive GAAP net income and EPS reassure investors.

Notably, ACM Research did not make it onto the Motley Fool Stock Advisor’s list of the 10 best stocks for investors to buy now. While this omission may raise questions, investors should conduct thorough research and consider various perspectives before making investment decisions.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Benson Mawira

Benson is a blockchain reporter who has delved into industry news, on-chain analysis, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc.His area of expertise is the cryptocurrency markets, fundamental and technical analysis.With his insightful coverage of everything in Financial Technologies, Benson has garnered a global readership.

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