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Seagate Technology PLC (STX), Western Digital Corp (WDC): Do Not Invest in Computers, Invest in Hard-Disk Drives

The digital world is evolving at an amazing speed. Thus, the demand for digital storage grows stronger each day. Companies are in need of larger and faster hard-disk drives (HDD). Not long ago, HDDs of 200 GB or 500 GB were unheard of. Nowadays, 1 TB and 2 TB are the standard capacities for any personal computer.

Several factors have led to strong demand for HDDs. Nowadays, many digital TV boxes have DVR capabilities. Further, the Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 3 has 250 GB or more in HDD. Digital cameras have higher mega-pixels. For these reasons, hard disk drive manufacturers deserve attention to determine if they offer appealing investment prospects.

Hard disk drive kings

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX)

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) and Western Digital Corp (NASDAQ:WDC), two major players in the digital storage market, provide storage media ranging from personal computers to servers.


From a valuation standpoint, Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 6.8, while WD trades with a P/E of 7.7. Both companies trade well below the industry’s average of 15.1. Seagate’s ROA and ROE are higher than WD’s, with Seagate’s ROA and ROE at 26.6 and 71.8, respectively, compared to WD’s 14 and 25.1, respectively. Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX)’s balance sheet carries a considerable amount of debt, with a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.7. On the other hand, Western Digital Corp (NASDAQ:WDC)’s debt-to-equity ratio is in line with the industry’s average of 0.2.

According to their latest earnings report, Seagate’s revenue declined 21% to $3.5 billion, and its net income shrunk 65% to $416 million, or $1.13 per share. On the other hand, WD’s revenue rose 23% to $3.7 billion, and its net income declined 20% to $391 million, or $1.60 per share. WD had better revenue and higher operation margin than Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX).

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) may be regarded as an income stock because of its juicy 3.5% dividend yield. The company hiked its dividend payment in December 2012. Further, a share repurchase program worth $2.5 billion was authorized in April 2012. Investors may expect an expansion of the share repurchase program soon because the company’s free cash flow increased significantly at the end of the last quarter from $1.3 billion to $2 billion.

Western Digital Corp (NASDAQ:WDC) pays its shareholders a dividend of 1.5%. The solid free cash flow of $1.6 billion reported by the company is more than enough to cover the dividend payment. The company authorized a $1.5 billion share repurchase program to return capital to investors. However, I would expect an expansion of the program since the company is showing outstanding growth.

Although it may be argued that the introduction of the iPad by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has had a negative impact on HDD sales due to declining PC sales, I believe that there is not as big a problem. Granted, PC sales are declining significantly. However, the needs for digital storage media remains strong.

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