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AMD stock still volatile despite fresh stability in chip maker’s business

AMD Chief Executive Lisa Su shows off the company's Ryzen chip for PCs, which has gotten off to a good start.

Investors in Advanced Micro Devices Inc. need to wake up and realize they are investing in a chip maker with a checkered past that included big losses, product mishaps and management issues.

Given that past, the results AMD AMD, +1.06% released Tuesday look pretty dang good, but you wouldn’t know it from the sudden 11% plunge for the company’s stock in after-hours trading. Amid a sudden rise in the past two years, AMD shares have been volatile: The stock has doubled in the past year, but gained less than 1% in the past three months, as the S&P 500 index has gained 4%.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Just a few weeks after Chief Executive Lisa Su’s third anniversary as CEO, the chip maker reported revenue growth of 26% for the third quarter and actual profit, even without adjustments. The company’s stronger results were fueled by revenue from the new products that seemed to attract a new generation of investors, such as its Ryzen chip for desktops and its Radeon graphics chips.

“This is our highest quarterly revenue since the fourth quarter of 2011,” Devinder Kumar, AMD Chief Financial Officer, noted in Tuesday’s conference call.

Investors however seemed more concerned about the company’s outlook, which may not have been as strong as they hoped, but fits in with AMD’s long-term trends and most expectations. Wall Street analysts had been forecasting a fourth-quarter revenue of $1.33 billion, according to FactSet, a drop from the third-quarter total.

AMD revenues tend to decline after the third quarter as its custom design business for gaming consoles sees a big surge ahead of holiday-season product pushes for console makers like Sony Corp. SNE, +0.51% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +0.04% AMD predicted revenue in the fourth quarter would fall 12% to 18% sequentially, which is still on target to meet or beat the Wall Street consensus while growing about 26% from last year.

Even so, that was not good enough for one of the latest reasons to be in AMD stock: cryptocurrency. In the past year, a new breed of investors have gotten excited by the use of AMD’s graphics processors and cards in computers rigged for cryptocurrency mining., and the stock has even seemed to mirror the movement of the cryptocurrency Ether at times. But Su threw some ice water on that hot market and predicted that AMD’s cryptocurrency demand was “leveling off.”

“We’re being a little bit conservative on the cryptocurrency side of the equation,” Su said, continuing to be more conservative on the long-term prospects for crypto-mining revenue than competitors like Nvidia Corp. NVDA, +1.05% AMD’s shares fell to their lowest intraday point in after-hours trading right after those remarks.

Christopher Rolland, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial, estimated in a recent note that AMD was getting about 50% of the estimated $300 million in crypto-mining GPU sales. It wasn’t clear if AMD is seeing more competition from Nvidia in the crypto market or if the market itself is slowing down.

AMD has potential for success—and also for disappointment—in a much larger market than crypto mining, however. AMD is trying to get back into the server market with a new chip family called Epyc. The company confirmed that Epyc sales will really be a 2018 phenomenon, but that three of what Su called the “Super Seven” mega data center providers have publicly announced plans to deploy Epyc-based products, and others are still testing the chips.

“The Epyc ramp is going well and we expect more deployments as we go into Q4 and into next year,” Su said.

AMD said its product revenue also received a positive boost from a patent licensing deal, but it declined to be more specific or say how much it gained from that deal, which may be one-time in nature.

“It wasn’t going to be something that hit every quarter,” an AMD spokesman said in an email Tuesday evening. “We aren’t in the licensing business and our focus is on our product strategy.”

That all describes a very different company than what AMD was before Su. It seems to have a stronger PC product that offers some stability, potential upside with its server chips, and is capitalizing on opportunities like licensing and crypto mining. Despite those positive changes at AMD, though, it seems stock volatility may stick around.


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