Why 2017 Was a Year to Remember for Intel Corporation

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When Brian Krzanich succeeded Paul Otellini as CEO four-and-a-half years ago, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) was struggling. The problem then, which has eased but still concerns some pundits even today, was Intel's reliance on what was already seen as a dying PC market. The concerns were warranted, and thankfully for Intel shareholders, Krzanich wasted no time pointing the chip king in new directions.

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Intel still derives the majority of its revenue from PC offerings, but that's changing with each passing quarter. Now, the self-proclaimed "data center first" provider has become a leader in cloud data centers, the Internet of Things (IoT), cutting-edge memory solutions, and artificial intelligence (AI). After years of struggling, Intel is finally enjoying the fruits of its labor.

Dawn of a new day

Wasn't long ago a quarter of little to no growth in Intel's client computing group -- home of its PC solutions -- would have been cause for alarm. But as Intel demonstrated last quarter, that's no longer a problem. The $8.9 billion in revenue generated from PCs in the third quarter was flat year over year.

Despite the relatively so-so revenue from PCs, Intel shares are up 13% since sharing yet another record-breaking quarter Oct. 26. Intel's solid performance the last couple of months speaks volumes as to why 2017 was a year to remember. PCs or no PCs, Intel's $16.1 billion in total revenue was still a 6% increase compared to 2016.

The better news is how Intel was able to post such a strong quarter. Stagnant PC sales were more than made up for by record growth of 15% in Intel's data-centric units, which is a culmination of multiple segments. Data center group revenue alone of $$4.9 billion last quarter was not only a 7% jump year over year, it was yet another record.

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Not to be outdone, IoT sales rose 23% to a record $849 million, and Intel's memory solutions group soared 37% to $891 million to, you guessed it, another record-breaking quarter. Including the programmable solutions division's revenue of $469 million, 44% of Intel's total sales are now non-PC related. Better still, that percentage continues to climb each quarter.

Cutting expenses is another initiative instituted by Krzanich, and Intel is delivering there, too. Last quarter's $4.9 billion in operating expenses was down 10.5% year over year, which helped boost earnings 36% to a record-breaking $0.94 a share.

Bring on 2018

Intel's hardly alone in delivering industry-leading, AI-ready data center solutions. NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) is a relative upstart, but its data-centric offerings are helping to drive its own record quarterly results. Last quarter's $2.64 billion in revenue was up 32% compared to fiscal 2017's third quarter. Founder and CEO Jensen Huang cited NVIDIA's new TensorRT AI data center platform as a key driver of growth, both last quarter and in the years ahead.

That said, NVIDIA is just scratching the surface relative to Intel in a market expected to generate more than $100 billion in five years. Another burgeoning market in which Intel will clash with NVIDIA and others is autonomous cars. Much was made of Intel's $15.3 billion deal for Israel-based computer vision leader Mobileye, and not all of it was good.

However, since Intel closed the acquisition for Mobileye, it's since inked deals with some of the world's largest auto manufacturers. The opportunity self-driving cars represent goes well beyond the autonomous driving itself. Amassing, storing, and analyzing data generated from the futuristic vehicles is a core function auto manufacturers and others will benefit from, and that's where Intel excels.

All aboard

With multiple avenues of growth, all of which are gaining momentum, and its stock up 28% year to date, it may seem as if it's too late to enjoy the ride Intel offers growth and income investors. Surprisingly, Intel stock still represents an outstanding value, not to mention a sound 2.3% dividend yield.

At 16.4 times trailing earnings, Intel is priced well below its peer average of 26.9 times earnings. Intel is also a bargain by most every other standard valuation metric. Not only was 2017 a year to remember for Intel, 2018 will be even better.

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Tim Brugger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nvidia. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.