Nvidia beats forecasts for graphics chip sales

Nvidia, the largest stand-alone maker of graphics chips, beat earnings estimates for its first fiscal quarter ended May 1, thanks to stronger PC graphics chip sales and the beginning of revenues from its Tegra mobile chip business.

It is starting to look like Nvidia is doing a good job balancing its investment in two markets: PCs and mobile devices. If it can do this, it will be able to adapt from one era of computing to another, a trick that few companies can say they have done.

The company reported a net profit of $135.2 million, or 22 cents a share, down about 2 percent from $137.6 million, or 23 cents a share a year ago. Revenue was $962 million, down 4 percent from $1 billion a year ago due to pricing pressure in the PC market. Analysts expected revenue of $947.8 million.

Adjusted income was 27 cents a share. Analysts were expecting Nvidia to report earnings of 19 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters. Shares of Nvidia rose a few percent after closing at $20.50 a share, up 3 percent in trading on Thursday.

“Our core GPU businesses are solid, with expanding revenues and margins. And this quarter, our Tegra mobile business took off,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of Nvidia.

Tegra and Tegra 2 chips are used in the latest smartphones and tablet computers. Those mobile chips represent Nvidia’s big effort to stay on the leading edge of graphics and to diversify away from PC graphics chip sales. Nvidia earlier this week bought Icera, a maker of baseband wireless communications processors. Huang said that deal means that Nvidia now makes the two most important chips in mobile devices.

Nvidia’s consumer product business generated $122 million in the quarter, up 78 percent from a year ago. That business includes sales of Tegra chips as well as products for embedded devices. Nvidia said that notebook graphics chips sales took off, particularly as many computer makers used Nvidia’s chips alongside Intel’s Sandy Bridge microprocessors (which combine graphics and processors in a single chip).