After the close of Tuesday, Intel (INTC) reported a strong 2Q14. Revenue came in slightly higher than the company’s upwardly revised guidance from last month. Earnings per share were $.55 vs. Wall Street analysts’ expectations of $.52 (expectations which were revised upward when INTC announced in mid-June that business was looking up).
INTC also revised up its full-year revenue guidance from basically flat year-on-year to +5% growth. It said that its server business ($3.5 billion of the company’s $13.8 billion total during the quarter) continues to boom, with both unit volumes and unit prices rising. That’s no surprise. In addition, however, the PC business ($8.7 billion in 2Q14 sales) appears to have bottomed and to be bouncing back a bit.
The PC development has two aspects. Corporate customers, who make up about 40% of the PC total, are buying again. The simplest explanation for this is that their existing laptops and desktops have just gotten too old. Buying may also be spurred by the fact the Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, that corporations don’t regard tablets as a viable substitute for laptops, or simply that firms are flush with cash. In any event, corporates are buying, and will easily continue to do so in increasing amounts into next year.
Consumers, 60% of the total PC market, may also be showing signs of life–although this is more OEM and distributor body language than actual orders.
Remember, too, that INTC’s sales are not to end users. So it stands to benefit not only from increased final sales but also by manufacturer and distributors purchases to built up bare-bones inventories.
INTC has substantial operating leverage, both from the capital-intensive nature of its manufacturing and its very large R&D and SG&A budgets. As a result, small changes in revenue can make a disproportionately large impact on the bottom line (in fact, they’re almost pure profit). At the moment, the revenue changes in INTC’s two main businesses, PCs and servers, are both positive.
INTC is saying it expects its tax rate to remain at 28% for the rest of the year, implying that the growth it is seeing is mostly coming from the developed world, where tax levies are relatively high.
lines of business
As is always the case in securities analysis, the line of business table is where the real work is done. For INTC, I’ve duplicated the relevant 2Q14 lines below:
PC Client Group : revs = $8.667 billion, op income = $3.734 billion
Data Center Group : revenues = $3.709 billion, op income = $1.807 billion
Mobile and Communications Group : revenues = $51 million, op income = ($1.154 billion).
No, that’s not a mistake. INTC’s tablet and smartphone chip business had revenues of $51 million for the quarter …and an operating loss of $1.2 billion.
INTC is earning operating income of $22 billion – $25 billion a year from its traditional businesses and using a chunk of that to fund the massive losses it is incurring in trying to break into the mobile computing business.
The M&C Group figures need some interpretation. The revenue figures are net of marketing or other incentives INTC gives to buyers of its mobile chips; the operating loss includes R&D and other expenditures that arguably have an enduring value.
Nevertheless, the line of business table does convey the essence of the INTC story for shareholders wiling to pay $30+ for a share of stock. INTC is, in effect, two companies:
–one is a mature microprocessor maker earning $2.50 or so a share and growing at maybe +10% a year
–the other is a startup currently bleeding red ink at a $4 billion annual rate.
The fact that INTC is incurring large near-term losses on its M&C Group says two things to me:
–it doesn’t yet have a set of products customers are willing to actually pay for, and
–INTC believes M&C is crucial to its long-term success.
I might be persuaded to pay 15x earnings for the traditional business, if I thought it would have stable-to-rising earnings. That would mean a target price in the high $30 range. However, INTC’s actions imply that top management doesn’t believe the business is viable without M&C. So maybe the right price for the traditional business would be $30.
That leaves the question of the status of M&C still up in the air, though.
On the other hand, if INTC can create a profitable mobile business, that would mean–to pluck numbers out of the air–total INTC near-term earnings could be $3 a share, with a higher growth rate. Worth $45 a share? …probably so.
My bottom line: news of a cyclical upturn in the PC and server businesses probably supports INTC shares for the time being. Eventual downside to the high $20s (?) if/as it becomes clear the mobile chip business has no hope. Upside to $40+ on signs that INTC is narrowing its M&C operating losses.
I find it hard to assign probabilities to either outcome. For the time being I’m content to remain a holder of the stock.