Tag Archives: Seat

Jon Kyl Will Take McCain's Senate Seat
September 5, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

On Tuesday, Arizona’s governor appointed former Republican senator Jon Kyl to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the late John McCain. The appointment could spell even more government scrutiny for tech giants like Facebook and Google—even though Kyl has only committed to serving until the start of the next Congressional session in January, though he may stay through 2020.

While McCain, who passed away on August 25, never focused his energies on the practices of technology platforms, Kyl has taken up the cause in his private endeavors, particularly as the head of an internal probe at Facebook into whether the platform is biased against conservatives, which was announced in May.

The results of that investigation have not been made public, and it is still ongoing. A Facebook spokesperson said that Kyl would leave the audit, but that it would continue with the team from law firm Covington and Burlington that he had led. Kyl did not immediately return a request for comment. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also held meetings with Facebook executives about the question of liberal bias as part of the inquiry.

Kyl’s appointment comes just one day before representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook are set to testify again before the Senate over concerns about privacy, political bias, and anti-competitive practices. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will also tomorrow appear separately before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to address similar concerns.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing is slated to focus on “foreign influence operations use of social media platforms,” but tech executives will likely also face questions about whether their platforms are biased against certain political viewpoints.

Over the next several months, Jon Kyl will arguably be the senator best-equipped to ask such questions, having ostensibly spent the summer examining Facebook’s treatment of conservative viewpoints, both internally and on its platform. In late August, The New York Times reported that an extremely small group of Facebook employees have internally argued that the company isn’t welcoming to conservative viewpoints.

In recent months, a number of conservative lawmakers, including President Trump, have also accused tech companies like Google and Facebook of suppressing right-wing content, and have questioned whether they should be regulated as a result.

In April, for example, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, half a dozen Republican lawmakers questioned whether the social network had suppressed content produced by conservative commentators Diamond and Silk. Just last week, President Trump accused Google of purposely favoring negative coverage about his administration in its news product.

The belief that tech companies intentionally censor certain political beliefs is also increasingly held by voters, especially Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

For years, conservatives on Capitol Hill have alleged that prominent tech companies are biased against their beliefs. They often cite a 2016 Gizmodo article as evidence, which reported that Facebook employees suppressed the reach of conservative outlets in its trending product. But while Silicon Valley is notoriously a hub for liberal tech workers, many lawmakers’ specific accusations have largely been unfounded. Still, their complaints highlight the amount of power over Americans’ speech and access to information that a handful of California companies have consolidated.

Kyl appears well-poised to ramp up the questioning over whether Google and Facebook can keep that power while avoiding more government oversight. Aside from his experience with Facebook, the senator also has a history of pushing for the regulation of some internet activities. In the early aughts, he was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the criminalization of some categories of online gambling and he ultimately helped to pass the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Act.

As a lobbyist at Covington and Burlington, where Kyl has worked since declining to seek reelection in 2013, he has represented clients like Walmart, Georgetown University, and the conservative political organization Judicial Crisis Network. His clients have also included some technology companies, like San Diego-based Qualcomm.

Kyl has also busied himself with more than just auditing Facebook this summer. In a sign of his deep commitment to conservative interests, Kyl has also been guiding Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, through his Senate confirmation hearings.

As Kyl’s fellow senators mull over proposed legislation like a national privacy law, that commitment may also increasingly mean towing the Republican line on regulating big tech. No one is poised better to lead the effort than Kyl.

UPDATED: 9/4/2018, 4:52 PM EST: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook


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Micron: Is The Catbird Seat Heating Up?
March 25, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Micron (MU) reported Q2 revenue of $ 7.35 billion and eps of $ 2.82. The company beat on revenue by $ 70 million and beat on eps by $ 0.08. MU fell nearly 8% after earnings. I had the following takeaways on the quarter.

Top Line Growth Remains Gaudy

Last quarter Micron grew total revenue by 71% Y/Y. It followed up that performance this quarter with revenue growth of 58% Y/Y and 8% sequentially. The tremendous leverage driven by higher sales are helping the bottom line. Gross margin improved to 58% from 37% in the year earlier period. This double-impact caused gross profit on a dollar basis to more than double.

Revenue from the Compute & Networking Business Unit (“CPBNU”) was up over 90%, due to increases in average selling prices (“asp”) for products sold into the client market, growth in the cloud driven by out-sized increases in DRAM content per server, and increased sales into the enterprise market. The Storage Business Unit’s (“SBNU”) sales of Trade NAND products was up 45% Y/Y but fell off 9% sequentially; asp for NAND component sales fell, partially offset by increases in SSD sales. Meanwhile, the Mobile Business Unit (“MBU”) revenue was up 20% Y/Y driven by Micron’s low-power DRAM product and sales of mobile DRAM into smartphones.

On a product basis DRAM revenue was up 14% Q/Q and 76% Y/Y. ASP and gigabits sold increased Y/Y in the low 40% range, and low 20% range, respectively; they also grew sequentially. Trade NAND revenue was up 28% Y/Y, but fell 3% sequentially. ASP decreased Y/Y in the high single digits while gigabits sold increased in the low 40% range. ASP also fell sequentially in the mid-teens range. According to management, the ASP decline was caused by a mix shift in the company’s SBU NAND components. This could be a trend to watch going forward.

Micron Is Sitting In The Catbird Seat

The importance of the cloud and gaming segments is creating explosive demand for memory and storage capacity. The secular shift from the previous PC-based market to the current dealer market is amplifying that demand. Micron is poised to exploit this secular shift. According management, memory is also making possible applications like artificial intelligence and virtual reality:

This market now supports a healthy demand environment with several secular demand drivers that I have discussed earlier. More specifically, memory is making possible applications such as AI and VR, and enabling new cloud-based business models which deliver a fundamental value far in excess of a price per bit.

Management estimates DRAM bit growth in the 20% range in calendar year 2018. NAND bit growth could exceed 40%, driven by the transition to 64-layer 3D NAND. The NAND bit growth is predicated on an increase in supply to meet customer demand.

The Catbird Seat Could Get Hot

DRAM makes up over 70% of Micron’s revenue. Its increased asp and bit growth across products has led to the company’s outsize top line growth. Can the DRAM market hold up? Which industry players will increase capacity that could potentially drive down asp? Micron may have partially answered that question on the earnings call.

Micron wants to diversity its portfolio of LPDRAM, MCP and managed storage solutions to meet customer demands. The company also wants to expand its 64-layer 3D TLC NAND capabilities and its portfolio of low-power solutions with 1X LPDRAM and 1X nanometer DRAM designs. Micron needs additional capacity to meet the demands needed by growth in the cloud, artificial intelligence, and increased memory needs in the mobile space. It announced plans to build a $ 7.5 billion clean room space:

Accordingly, we are executing plans to add clean room space in our NAND and DRAM SAS network. With the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board, we have finalized plans to build additional shelf space in Singapore, adjacent to our existing NAND Center of Excellence. The primary purpose for this new clean room space will be to transition our existing wafer capacity to future 3D NAND nodes …

The first phase of this clean room is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019, with initial wafer output from the facility expected in the fourth quarter of calendar 2019. We are also building out incremental clean room space in our fab in Hiroshima, Japan, which will be available for production at the beginning of calendar year 2019. This clean room space will be used to continue our 1Y nanometer DRAM transition. For fiscal year 2018, we expect our capital expenditures to be in the upper end of our previously guided range of $ 7.5 billion, plus or minus 5%. Long term, we target capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue to be in the low 30% range.

Micron has cash on hand of nearly $ 8 billion. Free cash flow for the first half of the year was $ 4 billion, which equates to a run-rate of $ 8 billion. The company has ample cash and cash flow to fund its capital expenditure requirements. Its $ 4.2 billion capital expenditures through the first half of 2018 was exactly 30% of its total revenues. Maintaining this spend should not be a problem going forward.

In the short term, capacity expansion could help meet customer demand requirements without being disruptive to DRAM and NAND prices. What happens if demand peaks or if Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) or Hynix (OTC:HXSCF) follows suit? NAND prices are already facing headwinds. If DRAM prices stagnate it could hurt the MU growth story.

Conclusion

This was another strong quarter for Micron. Declining NAND prices and the uncertain impact on DRAM from capacity expansion make MU a sell.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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