Micron Drops After Forecast Fails to Meet Lofty Expectations

(Bloomberg) — Micron Technology Inc., the largest US maker of computer memory chips, declined in late trading after its forecast disappointed investors seeking a bigger payoff from artificial intelligence mania.

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Fiscal fourth-quarter sales will be $7.4 billion to $7.8 billion, the company said in a statement Wednesday. While the average analyst estimate was $7.58 billion, some projections were above $8 billion. Profit will be about $1.08 a share, minus certain items, versus a projection of $1.02.

Though Micron is getting a boost from the AI computing boom, demand is still sluggish in its traditional markets, such as personal computers and smartphones. Those areas are only beginning to recover from a historic slump last year.

The shares fell about 7% in extended trading. Micron had rallied 67% this year before the close, lifted by investor expectations that it will be one of the main beneficiaries of AI spending.

In the third quarter, which ended May 30, Micron’s revenue rose 82% to $6.81 billion. The Boise, Idaho-based company reported a profit of 62 cents a share, excluding certain items. That compares with estimated sales of $6.67 billion and a projected profit of 50 cents a share.

Micron sells a vital component of AI hardware — high-bandwidth memory — that works with processors from Nvidia Corp. to crunch data. The memory, known as HBM, can serve up information more quickly, helping computing systems develop and run AI models.

Micron sold $100 million of new HBM3e chips in the just-completed quarter and predicts that total sales of high-bandwidth products will rise to “several hundred million dollars” in the current period. It will then increase to multiple billions in fiscal 2025, which runs through August of that year.

Ramping up production of this new memory has been a challenge. Due to the difficulty of increasing factory output — and qualifying the chips to work with computer systems — supply effectively has a “hand brake on it,” Manish Bhatia, Micron’s executive vice president of global operations, said in an interview.

In light of those constraints, the company expects pricing to steadily increase. There’s also less chance of the memory market returning to an inventory glut, an issue that has long plagued the industry.

The company is on course to spend about $8 billion on new plants and equipment in fiscal 2024. That budget will increase materially next year in support of construction at sites in Idaho and in New York state.

The Idaho facility won’t contribute to supply until fiscal 2027, with the New York site coming the following year, Micron said. But the timing may depend on Micron’s analysis of supply and demand.

In a slide presentation, the company said that PC-industry unit sales remain on track to increase by a percentage in the low single digits in calendar 2024. Smartphone units will gain by a low- to mid-single-digit range. The company expects AI features to help spur demand for phones and PCs heading into 2025.

Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Mehrotra reiterated a view that 2024 would mark a rebound for the memory chip industry, with record sales coming in 2025.

Micron competes with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc. in selling chips that provide short-term memory in computers and phones. They also makes flash memory, which handles longer-term storage in those devices.

(Updates with comments from executive in sixth paragraph.)

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