SanDisk Corporation (SNDK), Western Digital Corp. (WDC): Data Storage Businesses With High-Yield Cash Return Plans

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Recently, SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) experienced a decent rise of more than 3.4% in after hours trading to $57 per share. The positive market momentum was due to its recent announcement to initiate a $0.225 quarterly dividend per share and as much as $2.5 billion in new share buybacks. Should we invest in SanDisk after its recent announcement to accelerate cash return to investors? Let’s take a look.

A conservative capital structure with potentially high cash return yield

SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) is one of the world’s leading flash memory storage solutions companies, providing a diverse product portfolio including flash memory cards, USB flash drives, and solid-state drives (SSD). In the second quarter of 2013, SanDisk experienced growing revenue and profits. Revenue has increased from more than $1 billion last year to nearly $1.48 billion this year, while the operating income jumped more than ten times, from $36 million to $393 million. The diluted EPS came in at $1.06 per share, much higher than the EPS of $0.05 per share in the second quarter last year.

SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK)What also makes SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) interesting is its conservative capital structure. As of June 2013, it had more than $7.34 billion in equity, as much as $5.23 billion in cash and investments, and only $809 million in convertible long-term debt. The goodwill and intangible assets came in at more than $410 million. Investors might expect to have more cash return with the recently announced program of quarterly dividend initiation and the authorization to repurchase an additional $2.5 billion worth of stock. The company also reported that a $1 billion repurchase would be completed through an Accelerated Share Repurchase agreement. SanDisk is trading around $55.10 per share, with the total market cap around $13.30 billion. A forward annual dividend of $0.90 per share and a share buyback of $2.5 billion would generate a total cash return yield of more than 20.4% for SanDisk’s shareholders.

It has the most expensive valuation

At the current trading price, SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) is valued around 7.7 times its trailing EBITDA. Compared to other big data storage players, including Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ:WDC) and Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX), SanDisk is the most expensively valued of the three.

Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ:WDC) is the cheapest. At $64.40 per share, Western Digital is worth $15.20 billion on the market. The market values the business at only 3.74 times its trailing EBITDA. Western Digital is considered the industry leader with more than 6,000 patents globally and around 44% market share in each product segment. Over the years, Western Digital has managed to shift to the non-PC segment. In the period of 2005-2013, the company’s non-PC segment percentage revenue share has increased from less than 20% to nearly 50%.

With the market-leading position, Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ:WDC) expects to benefit strongly from fast-growing storage demands. The company estimated that around 75% of exabytes in 2020 will be stored on hard drives, with the majority of demand coming from enterprise systems. I also like Western Digital’s consistent cash flow generation. In the past 12 months, Western Digital delivered more than $3.5 billion in operating cash flow and more than $2.4 billion in free cash flow. At the current price, the dividend yield is 1.60%, with the low payout ratio at only 15%.

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) is also valued lower than SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK). It is trading around $40.90 per share, with a total market cap of $14.70 billion. The market values Seagate at 5.20 times its trailing EBITDA. Seagate had been one of David Einhorn’s favorite stocks. Einhorn initiated a position in the company two years ago, when Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ:WDC) suffered from 2011 flooding in Thailand, which benefited Seagate. Seagate has been a profitable play for Einhorn with the improved competitive environment and aggressive share repurchases. Einhorn reportedly closed his position with a 64% compounded return over a nearly two-year holding period.

Looking forward, Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) will also benefit from growing market trends in data storage, which is driven by cloud, mobile, and open source advancement. The company also plans to repurchase up to $2.5 billion worth of shares, representing a buyback yield at 17%. Seagate also delivers to shareholders an annualized dividend yield of 3.7%, and the payout ratio stays at 29%.

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