By Sonam Rai and Stephen Nellis
Feb 14 () - Chip maker Nvidia Corp on Thursday forecast sales for its current fiscal year that topped Wall Street expectations, sending its shares up 8 percent in late trading.
The Santa Clara, California-based company said it expected revenues for its fiscal 2020 year to be "flat or down slightly" from the $11.7 billion it recorded in the just-ended fiscal year. The forecast exceeds the $10.8 billion in revenue that analysts expected, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The just-ended fiscal year was Nvidia's best ever, with sales up more than 21 percent from a year earlier, but sputtered to what Chief Executive Jensen Huang called a "disappointing finish."
Over the course of the fiscal year, demand for chips for mining vanished and a slowdown in China dampened Nvidia sales.
"But the China economy is in the final analysis a growth economy, so we're looking forward to it recovering," Huang said on a conference call with investors. "And gaming is one of the most important pastimes of their culture."
Nvidia reported profit for the fiscal fourth-quarter ended Jan. 27 above Wall Street estimates. Its outlook for the 2020 fiscal first quarter missed analyst expectations only slightly and its data center business, where it competes against Intel Corp, did not fall as far as analysts had feared.
"Not-as-bad-as-feared has replaced the better-than-expected for a lot of companies this earnings season," analyst Ivan Feinseth of Tigress Financial Partners said.
Nvidia has entered into newer growth areas such as data centers and self-driving cars as it looks beyond its bread-and-butter business of selling chips that enhance video game graphics. Analysts had been concerned about Nvidia's fast-growing data business because Intel, the biggest supplier of chips used in data centers, last month gave a lower-than-expected sales forecast on slower buying from cloud computing customers, especially in China.
But Nvidia's data center business appeared to be spared from that slowdown, bringing in $679 million in the fourth quarter. That was lower than the year before, but slightly ahead of analyst expectations, according to data from FactSet.
"There was just a level of cautiousness across all of the enterprise customers and the cloud service providers that we've not experienced in a while," Huang said on the call. "It has to be temporary. The computing needs of Earth have certainly not been satisfied with what we shipped last quarter."
Nvidia has grown at a rapid pace in the past few years, but a slowdown in China and a fading cyrptocurrency craze have started to weigh on its sales. Fourth-quarter total revenue fell to $2.21 billion from $2.91 billion, but came above its already lowered estimate of $2.20 billion.
The chip designer forecast first-quarter revenue of $2.20 billion, plus or minus 2 percent, for the quarter. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $2.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
But while the first-quarter forecast lagged expectations, Nvidia's stronger-than-expected full-year forecast suggests the company is expecting a significant increase in sales in the second half of its fiscal year, said Kinngai Chan of Summit Insights Group.
The company's net income fell to $567 million, or 92 cents per share, in the fourth-quarter ended Jan. 27, from $1.12 billion, or $1.78 per share, a year earlier. Excluding items, Nvidia earned 80 cents per share, above analysts' estimates of 75 cents.
Its shares were up 8 percent to $167.40 in late trading, after closing up 1.09 percent at $154.53 in regular trade on Nasdaq.