Cree, Inc. (CREE): 1 Strategy This LED Stock Must Pursue

Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE) is the leader in light emitting diodes (LEDs), semiconductor solutions and LED lighting. The LED industry trend thus far has not been favorable with falling prices and rising competition. In contrast, CREE reported a 14% and 69% growth in revenue and net profit, respectively, during the last quarter. Furthermore, the company also managed to increase its gross margins by 4% by reducing production costs.

Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE)

The announcement of new, revolutionary LED bulbs by Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE) caused stock prices to increase by 17% during the first week of March. The competitively positioned bulbs cost only $10 and consume 84% less electricity than traditional bulbs. Initially, the revenue outlook for Q3 fiscal 2013 wasn’t very optimistic. Nonetheless, it was later revised with higher revenue estimates. I believe in the long-term growth of the LED market. However, there may be a high premium associated with Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE)’s present share value. Here is why I think there may be a downside to its stock price in the near term.

LED market size

The LED market has grown significantly over the past five years. During 2008, the global LED market size was close to $5 billion. However, by the end of 2012, it grew past $14 billion. According to Trefis, if LEDs manage deeper penetration in the general lighting segment by offering cheaper products, then the global market size may reach $26 billion over the next seven years.

Any appreciation in Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE)’s stock price will be directly related to the global adoption rate of LEDs. If the market size exceeds all expectations and grows past $30 billion, there may be a strong upside to the stock price. Nonetheless, if the market size hovers around the $20 billion mark, then Cree might struggle to report any consistent growth. Hence, we may even witness a heavy selling of its stock.

Sluggish LED adoption rate

Since the current LED market is swamped with a wide variety of products, investors should expect a dip in prices. Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE)’s revised revenue outlook was underpinned by highly differentiated value-for-money products. Currently, Cree has a 10% market share both in outdoor lighting and the industrial segment. In contrast, the residential segment, which offers maximum growth opportunities, still remains underpenetrated for Cree, since it only possesses 1% market share.

Rapid LED adoption is extremely challenging. It has a high initial cost, which makes market penetration in emerging economies a daunting task. The awareness of LEDs’ environmental advantages is still growing at a very sluggish pace, so total adoption of LEDs will largely depend upon how intensely governments get involved in promoting them.

Gross margins to remain below historic levels

Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE) reported a gross margin of 49.5% during 2010. However, 2011 saw gross margins drop to approximately 39%. The decline was predominantly due to increasing R&D costs and a fall in sale prices. Nonetheless, 2012 once again saw an increase in gross margins due to enhanced utilization of production capacity.

Going forward, margins are expected to stay below historic levels; Cree’s production costs are low, but it’s offsetting those potential savings by also investing in its own business. Amid higher revenue estimates, Cree also revised its operating-cost outlook, with plans to devote more cash to marketing and R&D.

I expect the growing awareness for LEDs to drive demand for Cree. Nonetheless, in the given environment, demand for low-margin products from emerging markets should keep margins under pressure.

Increasing competition in the LED market

Cree primarily competes with a fully owned subsidiary of Siemens AG (ADR) called Osram, and Philips within the LED space. Osram reported total revenue of €5.4 billion during 2012. The company designs and manufactures LEDs and has a presence throughout North America. It’s one of the largest manufacturers for optoelectronic semiconductors, and it claims the highest market share in the North American general lighting segment.

Likewise, Philips also has strong presence in the LED market. Similar to Cree, it also offers a 12-watt “ENDURALED” light bulb that consumes 80% lesser energy than a regular bulb and lasts 25 times longer. The LED bulbs were launched in the U.S. during 2010, and priced in the $40 to $50 range. Philips recently announced that it will introduce a new $10 LED bulb by the end of this year, which will replace the most commonly used 60 watt-incandescent. Philips has a market cap of €22 billion and reported a total revenue of €25 billion during fiscal 2012.

Can LED market growth be leveraged?

The growth potential in the global LED market still remains extremely high. Cree reported 12% growth in LED sales during the last quarter, in addition to the LED Chips and Lighting Components division, which reported 28% year-over-year growth.

Cree has manufacturing facilities both in China and North America, which makes it well-equipped to deal with increasing demand for LED products. However, the recent rally in the stock price was underpinned by the previous quarter’s results. Going forward, Cree’s margins are expected to remain under pressure, predominantly due to increasing R&D, marketing cost and increasing competition.

As new companies and products enter the market, the prices of energy-saving LED products are dropping consistently. In order to remain competitive with low gross margins, Cree must increase its market share.

The article 1 Strategy This LED Stock Must Pursue originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Ashit Gulati.

Copyright © 1995 – 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Insider Monkey Headlines
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy

Insider Monkey beat the market by 52 percentage points in 24 months Click to see monthly returns in table format!

Lists

10 Most Influential Papers In Economics

Top 8 Biggest Charities in the US

10 Worst Celebrity Career Moves Ever

Top 10 Best Paid Tennis Stars in the World

10 Cities with High Demand for Nurses

6 of the Worst Greeting Card Messages Ever Crafted

6 Ways to Make Money in ArcheAge and Build Your Empire

10 Foods To Eat To Lower Cholesterol Levels

The 10 Most Hated Television Characters of All Time

The 30 Worst Halloween Costume Ideas Ever Brought to Horrible Life

10 Vocational Skills in Demand Today with Jobs Waiting to be Filled

10 Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

The 10 Greatest Empires in History Which Nearly Conquered the World

The 6 Cheapest Boarding Schools In America 2015

5 Clear Reasons LoL is Better than DotA, Continues to Rule MOBAs

The Only 9 Teams with a Chance to Win the Super Bowl

The 15 Most Common Phobias in America that Induce Fits of Panic

Top 6 Least Expensive Tourist Destinations in 2014

Jim Goetz, Peter Fenton, Jim Breyer: Top 6 Venture Investors for 2014

Top 15 Billionaires in 2014

5 Pitfalls To Avoid When Buying a Franchise

Top 20 Medical Schools in the US – 2014 Rankings

4 Business Strategies that Turned Jamie Oliver into the World’s Richest Chef

6 Qualities That Make You A Good Team Player

10 High Paying Seasonal Jobs in America this Holiday Season

The 10 Busiest Shipping Lanes in the World

5 Most Valuable Brands in China

The 10 States with Highest Substance Abuse Rates Crippling Their Populace

The Top 10 Things to Do Before You Die That Will Echo for Eternity

The 10 Best Selling Items on Etsy

Top 10 Things to Do in Tokyo, the Greatest City in the World

10 Mistakes on Social Media that Can Harm You and Will Probably Get You Canned

The 10 Best Cities to Find Jobs in 2014

The 10 Most Controversial Songs Of All Time to Hit (and get Banned from) the Airwaves

The 20 Biggest IPOs in US History

The 10 Best Places to Visit in Mexico that Are Beautiful and Safe

7 Bad Habits that Age You Beyond Your Years

The 40 Best Fortune Cookie Sayings That Will Leave You Bemused, Befuddled, or Beguiled

10 Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Make Every Drop of Sweat Count

The 5 Best Documentaries On Netflix You Must See

The Most Heartwarming and Inspirational Story Of This Halloween Season, It Will Make You Cry and Jump For Joy

10 Best Party Songs of All Time to Bring the House Down With

5 New World Order Conspiracy Theories that Will Strangle the World

The 10 Highest Rated Movies of 2014

The 10 Largest Container Shipping Companies in the World

The 10 Largest Armies in the World: Who Should We Be Afraid Of?

Best Warren Buffett Quotes on Money You Need to Hear

The 10 Highest Suicide Rates by Profession

The 20 Most Underrated Movies of All Time

The 10 Fastest Growing Companies in America

Subscribe

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

X

Thanks! An email with instructions is sent to !

Your email already exists in our database. Click here to go to your subscriptions

Insider Monkey returned 47.6% in its first year! Wondering How?

Download a complete edition of our newsletter for free!