Advanced Micro Devices reported better-than-expected revenues for its fourth quarter that ended December 31, but it’s still hard to tell if AMD is gaining much ground on archrival Intel, which also reported a strong fourth quarter.
AMD was expected to get a boost from graphics processing unit (GPU) sales related to cryptocurrency mining, as high-end graphics cards are being used en masse to generate additional units of free cryptocurrency. That spike in demand is related to the crazy rise of Bitcoin, which reached $20,000 per Bitcoin in December, only to fall to just above $10,000 recently.
In fact, during the quarter, AMD’s Computing and Graphics group posted considerable growth, but it’s hard to tell whether the GPUs or Ryzen central processing units (CPUs) were responsible for the big gains.
Analysts were expecting AMD to report adjusted non-GAAP earnings of 5 cents a share, with revenues of $1.4 billion. Revenues came in at $1.48 billion, up 34 percent from a year earlier. Earnings per share were 8 cents.
“2017 marked a key inflection point for AMD as we re-shaped our product portfolio, delivered 25 percent annual revenue growth, expanded gross margin, and achieved full-year profitability,” said AMD CEO Lisa Su, in a statement. “We are even more excited about 2018 as we launch our next wave of high-performance products and continue to position AMD as one of the premier long-term growth companies in the technology industry.”
Computing and Graphics segment revenue increased 60 percent from a year ago due to strong sales of Radeon graphics chips and Ryzen processors. Enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom revenue grew 3 percent, driven by Epyc datacenter processors based on the Zen architecture that can deliver more than 50 percent more processing per clock cycle than the previous generation.
For the first quarter of 2018, AMD expects revenue to be approximately $1.55 billion, plus or minus $50 million, an increase of 32 percent year-over-year, primarily driven by the strength of new Ryzen, GPU, and Epyc products.
Cryptocurrency miners are AMD’s friends for now. The company also had competitive desktop processors with the launch of its Zen-based Ryzen chips in 2017. Those chips are being used in everything from gaming PCs to high-end workstations, and AMD has plans to roll them out further into markets such as laptops. There’s also high demand for AMD chips used for artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, and the company continues to supply processors for video game consoles such as the Xbox One series and the PlayStation 4.
“AMD crushed their Q4 2017 earnings report. The current quarter was driven by strength in Ryzen and Radeon Graphics, and things seem to be clicking into gear as you would expect from the product value proposition,” said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. “Computing and Graphics was up an eye-popping 60 percent. It normally takes three quarters for anything in the datacenter to kick in, and we are seeing evidence of Epyc and datacenter graphics hitting, all goodness for AMD.”
Moorhead added, “I expect AMD to do even better in 2018, as Ryzen mobile and Ryzen with integrated graphics will be readily available. Epyc and datacenter Radeon graphics will have yet another month to bake, and I’m expecting some bigger results here next quarter.”
Moorhead believes that AMD is gaining ground on Intel in desktop CPUs. But it’s still not clear if AMD is gaining on Intel or Nvidia in graphics.