3Q13 earnings for Intel (INTC): the wait continues

I’m on the road today, so this will be brief.

Yesterday after the market close, INTC reported earnings for 3Q13.  EPS were $.58/share, considerably above the Wall Street consensus of $.53.  Initially, the stock was up by around 2% in the aftermarket on this news.  Then it reversed course and lost about 2%.  Symmetrical, but not wonderful.

As I see it, the news can be divided into two halves–current market conditions and INTC’s future viability as a chip firm.

The near-term bucket is looking good.

–The high speed and cloud server businesses continue to boom, and now make up at least half of INTC’s total server revenues.

–Regular old corporate servers are even starting to pick up.

–The middlemen and OEMs that INTC sells its PC chips to are slowly starting to build their inventories in response to a bottoming of the PC market in the US and the EU.  Stocks, however, still remain smaller than normal, so there’s more improvement to come.

–More tablets will be appearing over the coming weeks with INTC chips inside.

4Q13 eps, traditionally a big quarter for INTC on holiday sales, will be flattish with 3Q13, on revenues up only slightly, quarter-on-quarter.

The future. on the other hand, has once again been pushed out–this time for another year, until 2015.

INTC’s industry-leading 14 nanometer chips have been delayed by a manufacturing glitch for three months until January.  So their higher speed and lower power use won’t be available during this holiday season.  To my mind, this is not a big deal.  On the other hand, during the conference call that accompanied the earnings announcement, CEO Brian Krzanich said he doesn’t think INTC can make its manufacturing operations as flexible as they need to be to respond to customer needs for another year to eighteen months.

This contrasts with the comments of former CEO Paul Otellini, for whom full competitiveness with rival chipmaker ARM Holdings was always just a quarter or two around the corner.

In hindsight, Otellini had a habit of being too optimistic.  In contrast, Krzanich, as a new CEO, has no incentive to make promises he can’t keep.  His best course of action is to underpromise and overdeliver.

The bottom line, however, is that the turnaround holders like me are hoping for has once again been pushed out.  That’s why the stock is down in the pre-market this morning, though not by as much as it was last night.

I’m content to hold and collect the dividend.

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