The Right Price for Nvidia

Breakthrough Tech Profits star Nvidia (NVDA) didn’t just report a great quarter Thursday. It reported a stupendous quarter, with revenue up 56% year-over-year and 14% above the company’s forecast as well as Wall Street expectations.

Yes, more than half the upside was driven by the cryptocurrency miners, who lined up to buy Nvidia’s specialized cryptography chips – the modern equivalent of shovels in a gold rush. Since rushes tend to come and go, this one has been widely discounted as a lasting growth catalyst, even though demand for cryptocurrencies and their supply continue to soar in tandem.

Conversely, some analysts quibbled with the pace of growth for data center processors, with sales up 170% year-over-year but just 2% sequentially.

Management commentary left little doubt that rapid market share gains continue on all the fronts that count. But the usual price/earnings fundamentalists carped that the stock’s expensive at 44 times next fiscal’s year’s consensus earnings estimate.

And the stock got slapped down 5%, to a level that was an all-time high when first reached two months ago. Nvidia shares actually appreciated 58% in the course of the just-reported quarter, which explains why the good report got sold.

I’m frankly embarrassed any time someone trots out a valuation argument for a stock like Nvidia’s. Tech gurus like Fred Hickey have let an entire tech-driven bull market pass them by while sniffing at ‘unreasonable’ prices and rooting for a market crash to be vindicated. It’s been a disastrous strategy for their followers.

Complaining about tech stock valuations does have the benefit of making the complainer look like the responsible adult at a frat house bender. What it doesn’t do, at least for me, is make much sense.

Nvidia has established itself as a hyper-growth difference-maker in all the hot and fast-growing tech markets, from gaming to robotics, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. It’s winning not just product sales but adherents for its sticky design platform and processing architecture.

Nvidia isn’t being held for next year’s earnings, but for the likelihood that networking effects will entrench it even more deeply as a tech leader and standard-setter a year from now. Growth-starved consumer staples behemoths are fetching 20 times earnings right now. So are oil companies whose capital spending continues to exceed their cash flow. I’ve seen what gets 20 times earnings in this market, and I’d rather own an Nvidia at 44x but growing 50% annually with a huge opportunity in front of it.

And of course the company continues to generate free cash flow that will accelerate alongside sales.

Is 44 times next year’s pro-forma future operating earnings too much to pay for that? Not in this market. And this is the market we have, not some hypothetical future market that might require a wholesale re-evaluation.

I prefer trends to homemade valuation charts and decent probabilities to bold prophesies. Which is why I suggested you buy Nvidia in early April without the aid of any model whatsoever establishing its worth.

Similarly, I don’t need a model to call last week’s dip a buying opportunity. I’m raising the buy limit on NVDA to $170.


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