Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) rose, then fell in after-market trading because its results beat low expectations while its outlook remained muted.
Non-GAAP net income came to $543 million, 88 cents per share fully diluted, on revenue of $2.22 billion. This just hit the earnings whisper and beat official estimates by 7 cents. Earnings were up 10% from the previous quarter with revenue up marginally.
The consensus among analysts was that a bottom has been reached but that a build from here to last year’s $3.2 billion in revenue is going to be slow. There are also fears about China, whose market fell overnight, which cost the stock its post-earnings gains.
What analysts should be focusing on are the new markets for Nvidia’s graphics engine and its use in artificial intelligence, both in clouds and at the network edge. That’s what CEO Jensen Huang wanted to talk about on the company’s conference call.
Huang was rhapsodic about the outlook for PC gaming, calling the console era over, and said software companies are increasingly turning to Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing technology as a standard for graphics. He made no mention of Bitcoin mining, which once helped drive results but now looks to have been a fad. Instead, he said there are 300 million gamers in China.
Huang said breakthroughs in conversational technology at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will soon make cloud-based speech systems much more useful. “All of the major pieces of a conversational AI are now put together,” he said, which will drive sales not just in clouds, but in new edge servers, designed to make all a cloud’s data useful to people without a keyboard.
CFO Colette Kress said the company is preparing for a time when data centers will be architected as single compute engines, with networking pre-installed, which is why Nvidia is buying Mellanox (NASDAQ:MLNX) for $6.9 billion in cash. These designs can become “edge servers” that bring workers a voice interface to the cloud-sized data stores generated by replacing controllers with sensors and chips in machines.
The speed with which this evolution takes place is the question analysts emphasized in declining to pound the table for Nvidia stock at its current price, which is about 8.3 times last year’s revenue and 30 times the company’s 2019 earnings.
Shares peaked at over $280 each last summer, then plunged to $130 in December before bouncing back to $190 in April and falling, since, to the May 17 price of about $160. From a technical perspective, there may well be follow-through to the downside, perhaps even a re-testing of last year’s lows.
Analysts have soured slightly on the stock, with two coming off their buy recommendations and one coming off hold in the last month. But the average rating remains overweight.
A Long-Term Buy
For investors with a five-year time horizon, however, and a clear understanding of technology’s future, the current price makes an attractive entry point.
Replacing dials with chips, connected to sensors measuring what’s in a machine’s working environment, creates a tsunami of data which, when analyzed by software, allows for operator-free control of factories, stores, homes and cities. Only exceptional conditions need to be trifled with, through voice interfaces connected wirelessly to edge servers and the cloud.
This was the original vision of the Internet of Things, what I called the “World of Always On” in 2004 when I spoke of it at Stanford. As usual, I was very early to the party. But the party is now ready to get started, in the view of Nvidia’s management.
Take their word for it.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new environmental story, Bridget O’Flynn and the Bear, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in MSFT. He added NVDA shares to his portfolio on May 20, 2019.