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Intel slightly misses earnings targets as PC sales flatten

Above: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich showed off the tiny Edison chip for wearables #CES2014

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Intel reported that its fourth quarter earnings were slightly below expectations, while revenues were a bit above targets. During the quarter, PC sales were flat, but data center revenues were up 8 percent.

Intel’s results are a bellwether for the PC industry, as it is the world’s largest chip maker. But as mobile becomes a bigger piece of the industry and Intel isn’t participating in that as much as it would like, it isn’t as much of a bellwether for the entire electronics industry anymore.

For the fourth quarter, analysts expected Intel to post revenue of $13.7 billion, up 1.5 percent from a year ago.They expected earnings per share to be 52 cents versus 48 cents in the prior-year quarter.

Intel reported earnings per share of 51 cents on revenue of $13.8 billion. Intel’s stock is down 3 percent in after-hours trading.

“We had a solid fourth quarter with signs of stabilization in the PC segment and financial growth from a year ago,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “We’ve built a strong foundation for our business by bringing innovation to the market more quickly across a wide range of computing platforms. For example, at CES, we demonstrated multiple devices that weren’t on our roadmap six months ago.”

For the first quarter of 2014, Intel said, it expects revenues of $12.8 billion and gross margin percentage of 59 percent. For the full year, Intel expects revenues to be flat. Full-year capital spending will be $11 billion.

“In a disastrous PC market, nearly flat revenue has to be considered somewhat of a win,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “Even if the PC market recovers slightly, which I believe it will, Intel will need to juggle many balls, including IoT [Internet of Things], mobility, and defending the data center, all while moving everything over to 14-nanometer manufacturing process. These are the most balls I’ve ever seen them have in the air at once, so 2014 isn’t a slam dunk.”

Krzanich, who replaced CEO Paul Otellini in the middle of 2013, gave his first major speech last week, doing the opening keynote for the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas. In that speech, he laid out a vision for wearable technology and gadgets based on the “Internet of Things,” or smarter devices that connect dumb things to the Internet.

IDC said that PC sales dropped 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the smallest decline in six quarters. That suggests the slide in PC sales, which started as smartphone and tablets became more competitive, has stabilized.

Intel is still one of the most profitable companies on earth. It generated $6.2 billion in cash from operations during the fourth quarter.

Intel’s strong performance comes from the growth of data center revenues from sales of chips for servers.

Full-year revenue was $52.7 billion, down 1 percent from a year ago. Earnings were $9.6 billion, down 13 percent from a year ago.

For the full year, Intel said, PC Client Group revenue was $33.0 billion, down 4 percent from 2012. Data Center Group revenue was $11.2 billion in 2013, up 7 percent from 2012. Other Intel architecture operating segments reported revenue of $4.1 billion, down 7 percent from 2012.

Intel is still strong in data center chips, with 95 percent market share, but it has a small presence in chips for tablets and smartphones, where Apple and Qualcomm are the incumbents.

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