Seagate’s top line could decline in high single-digits in fiscal 2019, led by lower enterprise storage products sales, given softer enterprise demand. The global server market grew 5% in 2018, and it could see a slowdown in 2019, given the expected launch of new processors in the near term. The company’s management in its recent earnings conference call stated that the trends in demand for its Nearline products can partly be attributed to cloud customers anticipating the transition to high capacity drives. Edge Compute sales are trending lower amid lower PC sales, given the shortage of Intel chips. Intel saw strong data center demand over the last year or so, which led to production issues for its 14nm chips. This trend is expected to continue in the near term, and could impact Seagate’s sales as well. Edge Non-Compute sales are also declining due to pricing headwinds for flash-based products, given a global decline in NAND prices.
Despite the near term headwinds, the company's stock price has appreciated over 20% year-to-date (as of June 30, 2019). This can be attributed to an expected improvement in earnings, after a sharp decline in the recent quarters, partly led by slower demand for the enterprise and cloud business.
Seagate is a leading provider of electronic data storage products such as hard disk drives for personal storage and enterprise applications. Its main products are hard disk drives or HDDs. Disk drives are the principal medium of mass data storage and they store digitally encoded data on rapidly rotating disks with magnetic surfaces. The popularity and sales of disk drives are driven by performance attributes such as quality, cost effectiveness and energy efficiency. Over the last couple of years, solid state drives (SSDs) have been gaining popularity. These drives do not contain mechanical or rotating parts, thereby consuming less power and not prone to failure as traditional hard disk drives. Seagate manufactures electronic data storage products addressing a broad spectrum of clients such as enterprise applications, client compute applications and client non-compute applications.
In the enterprise application market, its products are designed for servers, mainframes and workstations. The client compute application products are designed for desktop and notebook computers, to be used as primary storage in these devices and Seagate supplies to manufacturers of these laptop computers. In the client non-compute application product line, products are designed for a wide variety of personal and end user devices such as digital video recorders, gaming consoles, personal data backup systems, portable external storage systems, network attached storage and digital media systems.
A majority of its revenues can be attributed to supplying storage for OEM's such as Dell and HP. In recent years, Dell Inc. accounted for approximately 10%-12% of consolidated revenue, down from mid teens in previous years. Similarly, Hewlett-Packard Company accounted for less than slightly less than 10% in recent years, down from 12-13% of consolidated revenue in previous years.
It also provides data storage services for SME's which include online backup, data protection and recovery solutions.
We estimate that the enterprise and cloud storage business of Seagate, driven by a robust growth in the cloud computing industry will become the most valuable division by the end of our forecast period.
Flash-based storage has higher margins than traditional HDDs. Seagate also acquired Avago Technologies-owned LSI's flash business to enhance its flash portfolio. However, NAND pricing has seen significant declines in the recent past, given the transition to 3D NAND, and this has impacted the average selling prices of flash based products.
The high growth of digital content is driving the need for higher storage capacity to store, aggregate, host, distribute, manage, backup and use digital content. The need to access rich data and content is being driven by a highly mobile and increasingly connected user base. The traditional enterprise and client compute markets will continue to demand high capacity storage solutions and will be best served by hard disk drives where manufacturers compete on the ability to deliver cost effective, reliable and energy efficient mass storage devices. The increasing demand for HD content for media consumption and rich formats such as HD DVD and Blu-Ray drives the demand for high capacity disk drives solutions in the end-user market. The need for storing data locally is counteracted by the growing presence of cloud-based storage, which eliminated the need to backup data or fear losing data. Moreover it is universally accessible, which makes it a lucrative option. Consequently, large data centers are growing in numbers and the need to store data locally (on embedded hard drives or external disks) is reducing.
All leading laptop manufacturers are now offering laptops with a hybrid HDD-SSD primary memory and high-end high-performance laptops with complete SSD memory. Solid state drives are much more expensive per GB and this is the primary reason for the slow adoption of SSD as the primary memory component. As production capacity increases and technology changes leads to a drop in SSD prices, we can expect that solid state drives will become a standard for notebooks and netbooks.
PC market witnessed a slowdown in late 2014 and through 2015 due to the anticipated release of Windows 10 in mid 2015. As a result of low desktop and notebook sales, shipments of hard drives for PC and laptops suffered through 2015. Sales growth could remain flat in the near term.
We expect Seagate's enterprise business to be driven by businesses deploying cloud computing environments in an effort to pool resources and cut costs. Remote storage is becoming a standard for most enterprises and has even gained traction with retail customers with services like Dropbox, Skydrive and Google Drive.
To achieve the high performance needed with cloud computing, we can expect the hybrid SSD-HDD enterprise storage drives to become popular in the future.
The storage industry as a whole is going through a phase of consolidation, as companies are unable to keep up with the constant need to improve manufacturing efficiency, the capital required for R&D and staying ahead of changing trends such as the shift to SSD. Seagate acquired Samsung Electronics's hard disk drive business in December of 2011, and Western Digital purchased Viviti Technologies Ltd. (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) in March of 2012. Western Digital then acquired Virident, sTec and Velobit in 2013 to enhance its flash portfolio. SanDisk acquired PCIe storage maker Fusion-io in 2014 and Seagate acquire the PCIe flash business of Avago-owned LSI. We expect further consolidation as bigger players buy out small and niche players to obtain market share and more importantly gain access to research in the areas of high speed flash storage and solid state drive technology.
Below are key drivers of Seagates's value that present opportunities for upside or downside to the current Trefis price estimate for Seagate:
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