SanDisk CEO Talks Stock Surge, Outlook

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- 3D Memory Chips, mobile Internet and the enterprise are all looming on the horizon for storage maker SanDisk ( SNDK), which provides Flash memory hardware for companies like Apple ( AAPL) and Motorola ( MOT).

Eli Harari, the company's outgoing CEO, told reporters about the firm's roadmap after ringing the Nasdaq opening bell to celebrate SanDisk's 15th anniversary on Monday. The SanDisk co-founder will retire at the end of this year, handing the company's reins to Sanjay Mehrotra, who is currently COO.
San Disk

"We're developing 3D Memory technology and we expect that, over the next decade, this post-NAND Flash will come into production," he said. Harari explained that 3D Memory is a cheaper, faster version of Flash that will co-exist with traditional NAND Flash.

Harari is also eyeing growth opportunities in emerging markets. " The mobile Internet is bringing storage everywhere," he said, citing the Indian government's efforts to develop a $35 tablet for students, which contains two gigabytes of Flash. "Flash enables a new class of tablets -- in India it's a democratization of education, allowing kids everywhere to be connected to the Internet."

The Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk is the world's largest supplier of Flash to consumers, although Harari said that the company is also planning a major push into the corporate sector. "Enterprise requires different types of architecture, and we will be in that area," he said. "Our initial focus is on the much larger market, which is netbooks, notebooks and tablets, but we intend to be in the enterprise market."

The company's recent efforts around solid state disk (SSD), a more efficient form of data storage, could help pave the way into the enterprise. Some of tech's biggest hitters, such as EMC ( EMC) and IBM ( IBM), have already thrown their weight behind SSD, touting the technology as a way for companies to boost their storage performance.

"Our 800-pound gorilla is mobile handsets and tablets," said Harari. " But the second-largest market for us is SSD -- that's still one to two years from taking off and when it does, we will be ready."

SanDisk, which provides Flash for Apple, has become something of a Wall Street darling and continues to bask in the success of devices such as the iPad. The company's shares have climbed more than 83% in the last 12 months but dipped 3.6% on Tuesday despite strong second-quarter numbers from manufacturing partner Toshiba.

SanDisk blew past analysts' earnings estimate in its third-quarter results last month, though revenue came in just short of Wall Street's projection.

SanDisk also recorded its best-ever gross margin of 52% during the quarter, according to Harari, citing enhanced manufacturing processes. The outgoing CEO was less forthcoming when asked about speculation in the Israeli media that SanDisk may go private given that the company's results are not reflected in its market valuation.

"We don't comment on any of those rumors," he said.

SanDisk shares, up 5% over the past five days, were trading down 34 cents at $39.57 Wednesday morning.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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