Intel (INTC)’s $6 billion bond offering

INTC has just filed a prospectus with the SEC for a proposed $6 billion bond offering.  The securities it intends to sell are as follows:

Title of Each Class of
Securities To Be Registered
Amount To Be
Proposed Maximum
Offering Price
Per Unit
Proposed Maximum
Offering Price
1.350% Notes due 2017 $3,000,000,000 99.894% $2,996,820,000
2.700% Notes due 2022 $1,500,000,000 99.573% $1,493,595,000
4.000% Notes due 2032 $750,000,000 99.115% $743,362,500
4.250% Notes due 2042 $750,000,000 99.747% $748,102,500

Several aspects of this offering are interesting:

1.  INTC says it will use the proceeds for general corporate purposes (this is the boilerplate answer to the use question) and to buy back stock.

The dividend yield on INTC shares at a price of $20 each is 4.5%.  Total interest expense for the offering, ignoring accretion of discount, will likely be $142.875 million, meaning INTC is paying a blended interest rate of 2.38% for the money it will receive.

Unlike dividends, interest payments are a deductible expense for income tax.  After tax, the interest rate is 1.55%.  So for every share of stock INTC buys it will pay out $.31 in annual interest but save $.90 in dividend payments.  So the issue makes INTC’s cash flow go up. A $1 billion buyback at current stock prices would add about $30 million to annual cash flow.

2.  Why an offering now?

A short while ago, INTC boosted its quarterly per share payout to $.225, even though the company knew its new product spending would remain very high through this year.  Companies typically don’t raise the dividend based on future earnings potential;  they do so based on the idea that they have plenty of extra cash, come what may.  In other words, INTC thought it had lots of money to spare.

What’s changed?

–for one thing, the stock price is a lot lower than I would have expected, and the dividend yield is very high.  The chance to buy INTC assets for less than management thinks they’re worth + being paid through dividend savings to do so, the opportunity may have been too good to pass up.  I think this is the main reason for the fundraising.

–INTC’s operations generated over $5 billion in cash during a (relatively weak) 3Q12 alone.  The company also has about $11 billion in cash and short-term investments on the balance sheet.  So why borrow?   …presumably because the bulk of that money is located outside the US.

3.  My initial reaction on seeing the announcement was that problems had developed with planned cash flow in the US.  I don’t think that’s correct, though.  The US has been weak for a while.  It’s emerging markets that have been surprisingly bad for INTC recently.  And those profits presumably remain overseas.

In other words, I don’t think the offering comes as a result of adverse internal cash flow developments.

4.  INTC may be figuring that current low rates won’t last very long.  To me it’s striking that the company is raising 20-year and 30-year money.  Why else do that today?

my conclusion:  I’ve written about confirmation bias recently, partly with INTC in mind.  If I’m suffering from it, INTC’s board is, too.  In any event, the company’s indicated intention to buy back a significant amount of its shares appears to be what’s behind the stock’s current strength.  My guess is that this strength will continue for a while more.


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