Despite chip supply problems, Intel posts record revenue, buoying shares

Intel Corp. is enjoying a bit of the limelight today after posting strong third-quarter earnings and guidance for the next three months that easily beat expectations.

The chipmaker reported a profit before certain costs such as stock compensation of $1.42 per share on record quarterly revenue of $19.2 billion. That was well ahead of Wall Street’s expected earnings of $1.24 per share on revenue of $18.05 billion.

For the current quarter, Intel said it’s expecting to see a profit of $1.24 per share on revenue of $19.2 billion. Analysts had earlier forecast fourth quarter earnings of $1.21 per share on $18.82 billion in revenue.

Intel upped its full-year forecast too, saying it now expects earnings of $4.60 per share on total revenue of $71 billion. Wall Street’s forecast had come in lower, with expected earnings of $4.39 on revenue of $69.43 billion for the year.

As a result, Intel’s stock rose more than 4% in after-hours trading.

“Our third-quarter financial performance underscores our progress as our data-centric businesses turned in their best performance ever, making up almost half our total revenue in a record quarter,” said Intel Chief Executive Officer Bob Swan (pictured) in a statement. “Our priorities are accelerating growth, improving our execution and deploying capital for attractive returns. We now expect to deliver a fourth record year in a row.”

Intel should be well-placed to do that if the previous quarter is anything to go by. The company’s main business units all posted strong numbers in the quarter just gone.

The Data Center unit, which sells server chips for data center customers, saw third quarter revenue climb 4%, to $6.4 billion. The Internet of Things business grew even more at 9% to deliver $1 billion in revenue. Even Intel’s Client Computing division did well, reporting revenue of $9.7 billion, down 5% year-over-year but ahead of the $9.59 billion forecast.

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Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy was full of praise, saying Intel had delivered nothing short of an incredible third quarter.

“Every business increased from the prior quarter except the PC Group,” Moorhead said. “MobilEye and the memory group were up bigtime, 20% and 19% respectively, demonstrating automotive growth and memory pricing stability. I believe the biggest breakthrough was the Data Center Group with its growth in the second half of the year, which had been promised and many dismissed.”

The strong showing of Intel’s nontraditional businesses suggests it may have turned the corner, but the company still has a lot to prove going forward, Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller said.

“Intel needs to grow these businesses rapidly to get more stability from their revenue streams, but it remains a hodgepodge of investments that all have to grow much faster than PC revenue shrinks,” Mueller said. “In the meantime profitability is down, so the question remains if Intel is executing the right strategy fast enough.”

Wedbush Securities analyst Matt Bryson told clients in a note that Intel likely benefited from increased PC shipments in the third quarter. Meanwhile big data center customers such as Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp. also increased their investments in the quarter, further boosting Intel’s sales, the analyst said.

Sales might have even been higher if not for Intel’s production problems. It’s no secret that Intel has struggled to keep up with demand for its silicon in recent months, but Swan said the company was working hard to address this, mainly by increasing its investment in 14-nanometer process production capacity.

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“We expect our second-half PC client supply will be up double-digits compared to the first-half, and we expect to further increase our PC client supply by mid-to-high single-digits in 2020,” Swan said.

Earlier today Intel revealed details of its forthcoming 10-nanometer Tremont central processing units, which are low-powered chips that succeed its old line of Atom processors, designed for mobile and IoT devices.

During the quarter, Intel also announced the $1 billion sale of most of its smartphone modem business to Apple Inc.

Photo: 360 El Salvador/Flickr

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