NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The stock market has seen arguably its best year in quite some time in terms of the performance of the collective group of the semiconductors. Names such as Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report, ARM Holdings (ARMH) and Nvidia (NVDA) - Get Report have developed quite a following with investors in a space once dominated by former high fliers Intel (INTC) - Get Report and Texas Instruments (TXN) - Get Report, both of which have seen a resurgence of late.
As great as the sector has performed, one name that continues to get lost in the shuffle is
. It seems the company has approached the ranks of the unloved because it is not as flashy as the other names mentioned. But this is where investors are likely confusing market sentiment with value -- two entirely separate concepts.
While Atmel does indeed lack the flamboyance of Intel and Qualcomm, it does present many other advantages not shared by its peers -- many of which the market continues to unfairly discount. But as the underlying premise of investing remains finding value, investors must seek opportunities not immediately apparent. Often this includes sacrificing flair.
Although it's products are not used inside
devices like ARM and the even smaller
, the company competes and has a sizeable advantage over its rivals in the non-mobile device market -- items which include microcontrollers, programmable logic devices and a wide range of proprietary system-on-chips and non-volatile memory chips. The company is also gaining significant market share in several other products, particularly in the gadget market with its line of maXTouch controllers.
Its line of maXTouch products are what run the touch-screen interfaces on several devices from
as well as
Android devices. So it remains a surprise to see Atmel being overlooked in favor of a relative disappointment like Nvidia.
Management for Nvidia has not been able to fully address how it plans to secure more market share in the tablet and smart phone market -- even with its Apple advantage over Atmel. Does it currently deserve valuation multiple that is higher than Atmel? It is hard to justify.
There are several ways to play chips with many things to consider -- some presenting better advantages than others. There is no question that the PC decline is real and the mobile device market is on the rise. Understanding which players will be better positioned to produce market-beating performances can be the difference between a thriving portfolio and one that is merely average.
I think if investors look closely enough, there will find that Atmel is certainly a name that is worth consideration -- particularly at such low valuations while it is working hard to get its house in order.
From a fundamental perspective, the stock is trading considerably below its book value. But the challenge for management is to find a way to inspire investors to believe that this can indeed become a good turnaround story.
However, as much as I like Atmel, I will concede that a turnaround is much easier said than done. With Intel due to release its new marketing campaign on the release of
Windows 8 operating system and Qualcomm continued dominance in Apple products, Atmel will likely find it difficult to announce its presence absent some solid market-beating performances of its own.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.