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As a refresher, Intel last experienced such exuberance during the dotcom bubble when its stock price touched an all-time high of $74 on the 18th of August 2000. Well, as of 12:00 p.m. ET, the silicon giant breached the crucial $69 level and registered a year to date high of $69.02.
What appears to be fueling this incessant rally in Intel’s stock?
In one word – earnings. Yesterday, the chipmaker beat the consensus estimates on almost every metric. As an illustration, Intel surpassed the quarterly revenue estimate by a whopping $970 million. This translates to a beat by a considerable 5.04 percent. Crucially, the company reported an all-time high full-year revenue of $72 billion. A deeper analysis reveals that two segments were critical in achieving this milestone. First, Intel’s Data Center Group posted quarterly revenue of $7.2 billion – an increase of 19 percent relative to the comparable quarter in 2018. Second, desktop platform volumes were up by a hefty 11 percent relative to the third quarter of 2019 and by 7 percent vis-à-vis the last year’s comparable quarter. It should be noted that though ASPs for the desktop platform declined by 3 percent relative to the third quarter, the jump in shipment volumes was significant enough to not only rectify any adverse financial effects but also provide a considerable boost to Intel’s top line metric.
Generous rewards to the shareholders constitute another crucial factor buoying this stock rally. As a reference, Intel repurchased 63 million shares worth $3.5 billion from investors in the fourth quarter with $23.7 billion remaining residual in its authorized share buyback plan. Moreover, the company also used a part of its $9.9 billion in Free Cash Flow (FCF) to pay dividends worth $1.4 billion. For obvious reasons, this generosity is very appealing to the company’s investors.
Some of the other bullish factors were highlighted by a recent note from Jefferies. This week, Jefferies analyst Mark Lipacis upgraded the rating for Intel to ‘Hold’ from the previous ‘Underperform’ designation while, concurrently, raising the chipmaker’s stock price target from $40 to $64, an increase of 60 percent. The primary factor that prompted the upgrade relates to the potential for "dramatic change" in 2020 and 2021 owing to an overhaul in the chipmaker’s management team. Bear in mind that the company has embarked on a hiring spree, of late, and that it has been actively recruiting competent individuals from its competitors. As an illustration, the chipmaker hired GlobalFoundries Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Gary Patton in December 2019. Additionally, over the past year, the silicon giant also lured away from AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) prominent executives such as Jim Keller and Raja Koduri both of whom now serve in senior roles at Intel. Moreover, the company is also planning mass layoffs at its Data Center Group in order to become more financially streamlined. Another reason provided by Mark Lipacis for the upgrade related to the potential of a targeted restructuring in boosting Intel’s earnings, free cash flow and the stock price.
Finally, Intel is trying to open new avenues of growth by pursuing GPUs, FPGAs, AI, next-gen 5G technology, etc. rather than solely relying on its CPUs. This is a shrewd strategy as it allows the company to future-proof its products. Given Intel’s much-publicized problems pertaining to the 10 nm node production that has allowed AMD to take the lead, focusing on next-generation technology can ensure that such mistakes are not repeated again.