NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Atmel (ATML) shares are not cheap and haven't been for a long time. The stock is trading at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 75, which is almost four times the multiple of the S&P 500 and expensive -- more expensive than Apple (AAPL) , which has a P/E of 18.
At that level, its current investors are betting Atmel will beat estimates each quarter. One slip-up will send the shares tumbling. So with the semiconductor company poised to report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings Wednesday, potential investors want to know if the semiconductor company is worth the gamble.
Should you buy? Yes, if you buy now and hold for the long term. The stock closed Tuesday at $8.35, down by a fraction for the year to date and the past 52 weeks.
Atmel, San Jose, Calif., posted stock gains of just 5.75% in 2014, trailing the 38% gains made by the semiconductor industry, according to research firm Fidelity. In addition, Atmel lagged the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) , which gained close to 30% last year.
Nonetheless, Atmel is projected to grow earnings this year at more than 41%, according to CNN Money. In the next five years it's projected to grow earnings at an annual rate of 17%. For some context, that is 12 percentage points faster than Intel (INTC - Get Report) .
While Atmel may not carry the muscle of Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) or Broadcom (BRCM) , analysts expect Atmel to grow three percentage points and six percentage points faster than Qualcomm and Broadcom, respectively. Atmel's projected earnings growth for 2015 is higher than Broadcom (8% projected earnings growth) by 33 percentage points.
Atmel has quickly built itself into an industry leader in touch controllers and sensors. Its latest maXTouch solution has picked up new design wins in some Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) and Samsung (SSNLF) products and continues to gain momentum in "non-traditional" touch devices and products, including automotive applications. Considering the better-than-expected adoption of its new XSense technology, the company is on the verge of stronger-than-expected growth.
For these reasons, the shares, which have a consensus buy rating, are worth the gamble. With its third-quarter operating margin of 45%, which is seven percentage points higher than the industry average, Atmel is developing the sort of efficiency to boost long-term profits. That's what analysts are betting on Wednesday.
For the period ending in December, Atmel is expected to report an 11% year-over-year jump in earnings, reaching 11 cents in per share on revenue of $346.7 million, down 2%. For the full year, earnings are expected to surge 41% year over year to 38 cents per share, while full-year revenue is projected to be $1.41 billion, up 2% year over year.
The 41% jump in full year profits underscores how strong of a year Atmel had in 2104. Despite its strong profitability, it was surprising shares climbed just 5.75%. But investors shouldn't let another buy opportunity slip away.
TheStreet Ratings team rates ATMEL CORP as a Hold with a ratings score of C+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate ATMEL CORP (ATML) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed ? some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, revenue growth and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including relatively poor performance when compared with the S&P 500 during the past year and weak operating cash flow."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: ATML Ratings Report