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Nvidia Hits Record High as AI Demand Fuels Blowout Forecast

Nvidia CEO heralds ‘new computing era’ after chipmaker’s sales surge. Shares pare early gains as part of broader pullback Thursday.

(Bloomberg) -- Nvidia Corp. reached a record high Thursday after the chipmaker at the forefront of an industrywide artificial intelligence race delivered a third-straight revenue forecast that surpassed Wall Street’s estimates.

The shares rose 1.9% to $480.01 in New York after Nvidia said sales will be about $16 billion in the three months ending in October. Analysts had estimated just $12.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nvidia’s results last quarter also blew past projections, and it approved an additional $25 billion in stock buybacks.

The outlook underscores Nvidia’s role as the key beneficiary of the AI computing boom. Faced with skyrocketing demand for chatbots and other tools, data center operators are stocking up on the company’s processors, which are adept at handling the heavy workloads required by artificial intelligence. That’s helped Nvidia quickly pull out of an global chip slump and accelerate sales growth to its fastest rate in years.

“A new computing era has begun,” Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang said in a statement. Companies around the world are shifting to more powerful computing that can handle ChatGPT-style generative AI, he said.

The stock had climbed as much as 6.7% earlier in Thursday’s session, before paring gains as part of a broader pullback. That added to a more than threefold increase for the stock this year. The shares closed at $471.16 in New York on Wednesday before Nvidia released its quarterly report.

BloombergNvidia's data center unit takes off

In the fiscal second quarter, which ended July 30, revenue doubled to $13.5 billion, the company said. Profit was $2.70 a share, minus certain items. Analysts had predicted sales of about $11 billion and profit of $2.07.

Nvidia became the first-ever semiconductor company to rack up a $1 trillion market valuation after another blowout quarter in May. It has emerged as the main supplier of infrastructure needed to support the growing use of AI systems. But investors have been waiting for more evidence that the second quarter was the beginning of a long-term expansion and not a one-time spike. What they got Wednesday was even more bullish than hoped.

Underscoring Nvidia’s dramatic growth, this quarter’s revenue target is 28% above Wall Street projections and nearly as high as the company’s total annual sales in 2021. 

In another milestone, Nvidia’s quarterly sales overtook those of Intel Corp. for the first time. Though Nvidia has had a higher valuation than Intel since 2020, posting more revenue than the chip pioneer shows just how pervasive its products have become.

Nvidia was co-founded in 1993 by Huang, who still runs the company. He’s successfully parlayed a business making graphics chips for video games into dominance of the market for so-called accelerators — chips that help train AI software by bombarding it with data. Nvidia’s rapid introduction of ever-more powerful processors — along with accompanying software — has left would-be rivals trailing far behind. Customers such as Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s. Google, meanwhile, are lining up to take as many chips as Nvidia can supply.

Like many of its peers, Nvidia doesn’t operate its own chip production and relies on outsourced manufacturing provided by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. That arrangement frees it from the huge expenditure and risks of investing in manufacturing. But it also gives it less ability to adjust supply quickly.

There were concerns that supply constraints could hamper Nvidia’s sales in the current quarter, but its forecast suggests that operations are running smoothly. Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said the company is happy with the progress it’s making in getting more components. 

“We expect supply to increase each quarter through next year,” she told analysts on a conference call.

Nvidia’s division that supplies chips to data centers — once a sideline business — has become its biggest moneymaker. The unit had sales of $10.3 billion last quarter, versus an estimate of $7.98 billion. Gaming revenue was $2.49 billion, compared with an average analyst prediction of $2.38 billion. Automotive-related chips brought in $253 million.

The personal computer market, previously Nvidia’s largest source of revenue, had slumped in the past year. But it has returned to being a growth driver. Demand for laptop components is particularly strong, the Santa Clara, California-based company said.

AI has been the hottest topic for tech investors this year, and every major company has talked up its capabilities in that area. But Nvidia is one of the few making serious money from the trend, which has accelerated since the public debut of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November. That tool helped show the potential of generative AI to a broader audience.

Nvidia’s stock run-up of more than 200% this year has eclipsed the gains of all others in the closely watched Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index.

BloombergNvidia's shares hit a new all-time high

The company’s gains are all the more remarkable because it can’t sell its full lineup to the largest chip market, China. The US government requires Nvidia to obtain licenses to supply Chinese customers with its best-performing AI-related chips.

The announcement of that rule last year put a dent in shipments to the Asian nation and forced Nvidia to rework one of its key products. The company depowered one of its graphics processor units, or GPUs, to make sure it didn’t trigger the China restriction. But the Biden administration is considering new regulations that could limit sales of that component as well, Bloomberg has reported.

Nvidia’s CFO Kress addressed that possibility Wednesday on the call. 

“Given the strength of demand for our products worldwide, we do not anticipate that additional export restrictions on our data center GPUs, if adopted, would have an immediate material impact to our financial results,” she said.

Nvidia also has become more important as a tech industry bellwether. The chipmaker’s forecasts provide a window into the plans of some of the world’s most valuable companies — and indicate how much those businesses are willing to spend to overhaul computer systems to accommodate AI.

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