Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Advanced Energy Industries Closer To The Edge

Everybody has probably seen at least one video of a person (usually a male between the ages of 15 and 40) running full-speed at some sort of barrier that the runner assumes is lightweight and/or will be easily passed through… only to discover too late (typically upon regaining consciousness) that it was actually quite solid.

I mention that as an opening to the dilemma facing Advanced Energy Industries (AEIS) investors right now. Based upon what major customers like Applied Materials (AMAT) and Lam Research (LRCX) are saying, it looks pretty likely that semiconductor equipment demand growth will slow noticeably in 2019 - but is this a "lightweight" barrier that is just a dip in a long-term growth trajectory driven by new architectures and strong demand for IoT and memory or is the industry looking at a hard stop and a return to the "normal" cyclicality of past eras?

I'm cautiously optimistic that it is more the former than the latter, and it doesn't take hefty growth assumptions to drive a worthwhile fair value here. I advised caution on AEIS back in mid-February and the shares are down slightly since then (peers like MKS Instruments (MKSI) and Comet (OTC:CHLDF) (COTN.S) have done similar-to-worse, while XP Power (OTCPK:XPPLF) (XPP.L) has done better). I think this is still a risky call - buying tech into a slowing growth cycle is tough way to make money - but it's hard to ignore a well-run company with growing end-markets (on a long-term basis) and an interesting valuation.

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Advanced Energy Industries Closer To The Edge

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