Micron shares fall as demand recovery 'off to slow start'

Memory chip parts of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology are pictured at their booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

(Reuters) -Micron Technology's first-quarter loss forecast has triggered concerns of a sluggish recovery in the memory chip maker's end-markets such as data centers, sending its shares down over 5% in early trading on Thursday.

The company on Wednesday forecast a bigger loss than analysts had expected and a return to positive gross margin in the second half of fiscal 2024, later than Wall Street expectations for the first half.

Micron has been under-utilizing its production capacity to match supply with a slump in demand for memory chips that started last year, but analysts have said excess inventory appears to have cleared in most of its end-markets such as smartphones and personal computers.

Low memory prices since early last year have also been hurting Micron's profit margin.

"The recovery path is off to a slow start," analysts at Evercore ISI said in a note.

Still, analysts were hopeful that the artificial intelligence (AI) boom should boost overall prospects for the company, which expects "several hundred million" dollars worth of revenue from its new high-bandwidth chips, meant for AI work, next year.

Micron is also working to become a supplier to AI chip giant Nvidia, it said on Wednesday.

The company forecast adjusted loss per share of $1.07 for the current quarter, steeper than analysts' estimates for a 95 cents-per-share loss.

Citigroup now expects Micron to post a loss of $1.79 per share in fiscal 2024, compared with its earlier estimate of a 99 cent profit.

A correction across the semiconductor industry had sent Micron's shares roughly 50% lower last year. Those losses have largely been recouped, with its shares rising about 36% in 2023 as investors hoped for a recovery.

Micron's price-to-earnings ratio for the trailing 12-month period is a negative 16.3, per data from LSEG.

(Reporting by Chavi Mehta and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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