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Nvidia sidesteps downward PC industry trend with solid fiscal results

Nvidia has reported booming sales for its fiscal year and the final quarter of 2012, though profits dipped a bit on both an annual and sequential quarterly basis.

The graphics chip manufacturer had record full-year revenue of $4.28 billion (£2.76 billion), a 7.1 per cent increase from the previous year, and also enjoyed a 16.1 per cent year-over-year spike in sales for its fourth quarter, pulling in $1.11 billion (£710 million) over the last three months of 2012.

But Nvidia's net income of $581.1 million (£374.5 million) a year ago declined 3.2 per cent to $562.5 million (£362.5 million) in its fiscal year, partially a function of the company's growing but relatively lower margin mobile chipset business. Nvidia said in an SEC filing that revenue generated by its Tegra processors was up 29.3 per cent for the year, including a more than 50 per cent increase in sales of Tegra chipsets for smartphones and tablets.

"This year we did the best work in our company's history. We achieved record revenues, margins and cash, despite significant market headwinds, Nvidia president and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said in a statement.

"We grew our GPU and Tegra Processor businesses. We are sampling production silicon of the Tegra 4 platform which includes our 4G LTE modem. And we created new pillars for long term growth with Project SHIELD and Nvidia GRID - first-of-their-kind devices that will extend our leadership in visual computing into mobile and the cloud."

On a sourer note, Nvidia appears to have lost out to rival Advanced Micro Devices in supplying chipsets for upcoming next-generation game consoles from Sony and Microsoft, according to widespread rumours. Nintendo's Wii U, released last year, also runs an AMD Radeon graphics chip.

But the company is making inroads in alternative gaming devices and distribution streams outside of its traditional PC stronghold. In addition to its Grid game-streaming technology and Shield, an Android gaming device expected to ship in the second quarter of this year, Nvidia is supplying the upcoming Android-based Ouya game console with a Tegra 3-based chipset.

The company also enjoyed big design wins with the introduction of Windows RT tablets last year, including Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet.

Nvidia forecast revenue of $940 million (£606 million), plus or minus two per cent, in its fiscal first quarter this year.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said the graphics chip firm bucked a downward trend in the PC industry with its strong performance.

"Compared to many who participate in the PC market, Nvidia had a very good quarter and year. All this indicates market share growth by GeForce, though Tegra 3 drove most of the growth for the quarter led by high-profile tablet wins like the Nexus 7 and a few phone wins," Moorhead said.

"Of course, 2013 will be challenging for the entire PC sector and mobility competition is ramping up. No one has seen the performance of Tegra 4 as indicated on the call. This has the potential to be an ace card for them if it pans out as indicated."

Meanwhile, Nvidia confirmed in its SEC filing that it is planning a campus expansion, as reported earlier in the week by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

"In fiscal year 2014, we expect to break ground on a new building for our headquarters campus in Santa Clara to provide for our near-term growth needs. This 500,000 square-foot building will provide 2,500 seats and be built on land we purchased five years ago. We evaluated various alternatives to optimize our specific needs at the best value-cost equation and determined that constructing our own building to be the optimal choice. We estimate capital funding for the project to ramp in the third quarter of fiscal year 2014," the company said.