Graphics chip maker Nvidia beat analysts’ expectations as it continued to benefit from a general recovery in personal computer sales. Also, the company started seeing some of the fruits of its expansion into mobile devices as it shipped its first Tegra processors for Microsoft’s Kin mobile phones.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip design firm reported a first-fiscal quarter profit of $137.6 million, or 23 cents a share, compared with a loss of $201.3 million, or 37 cents a share, a year ago. Revenues for the quarter ended May 2 were $1 billion, up 51 percent from $664.2 million a year ago. Analysts had expected the company to report earnings of 21 cents a share on revenues of $986.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters.
The company said its high-end GeForce GTX 480 and 470 chips (previously code-named Fermi) have gotten it back in the high-end graphics market. Shipments were better than expected because Nvidia’s contract manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., has been making more chips than expected. During the quarter, Nvidia shipped a few hundred thousand Fermi graphics chips. Previously, chip yield problems prevented TSMC from shipping the chips.
“When it comes [to] yield, we are out of the woods,’ said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of Nvidia, in a conference call.
Gross profit margins were higher at 45.6 percent, compared to 44.7 percent in the previous quarter and 28.6 percent a year ago. The company’s Quadro workstation graphics chip business grew strongly as enterprises started buying more computers. Nvidia’s Tesla chips for high-end servers also set a record in revenue. Over time, Huang said, he hopes Nvidia’s gross profit margins will grow to above 50 percent.
In the second fiscal quarter, revenue is expected to be down 3 to 5 percent from the first quarter, as things slow down on a seasonal basis. Gross profit margin is expected to be 46 to 47 percent. Huang said his company was absent from the high-end graphics chip market — such as chips for game computers — for two quarters. Now that his chips are competitive again, he said he expects to gain market share.
The Tegra shipments are noteworthy as they represent the first major shipments (beyond the poor-selling Microsoft Zune HD device) for Nvidia’s push into mobile devices. But David White, chief financial officer, said the Tegra revenues are relatively small at this point.
Tegra 2 devices are expected to be announced at Computex, the June trade show in Taiwan and to hit the market in the third and fourth calendar quarter. A lot of those devices will focus on Android operating systems and they will compete with Apple’s iPad, which uses Apple’s own A4 chip.
“The bar is pretty high for mobile processors,” Huang said. “The leader in the space is Apple with its A4 chip. They have to come up with something better than the A4.”
As for the European market crisis, Huang said, “We don’t know any more or any less than anyone else. The success of Fermi is as we expected. We will see how it plays out.”
Nvidia had a record quarter with its 3D Vision glasses products, which are used to view 3D imagery on computer monitors and TVs. Huang said he was optimistic that 3D is the future of the PC, but he did not disclose actual numbers.
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