Intel outlook defies worries of PC decline

By Noel Randewich


Intel shares moved sharply higher after the company beat earnings expectations and said developing countries like China are fueling demand and helping make up for slower growth in the United States and Europe.

"Guidance is well above consensus estimates, but below seasonality," said Patrick Wang, an analyst at Evercore Partners. "They are giving us a realistic look at the fourth quarter and it seems like they are guiding conservatively."

Intel's processors are used in 80 percent of the world's PCs but the company has failed to gain traction in increasingly popular mobile gadgets like Apple Inc's iPad and Google Inc's Android smartphones, which have eaten into demand for laptops.

A financial crisis in Europe and high U.S. unemployment have also weighed on consumer demand for PCs.

But corporate information technology spending has held up in recent quarters despite the lackluster economy, helping sales of Intel's high-margin server chips. Tech companies such as Facebook are also investing heavily to build out the massive data centers.

"Emerging markets are good, enterprise is strong, the mature market consumer is a little bit weaker," Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters. "I'd say Europe was a little bit weaker than the U.S."

Data center sales for the world's leading chipmaker rose 15 percent in the quarter. By comparison, sales of Intel's Atom mobile chips plummeted 32 percent.

Intel said revenue in the current quarter would be $14.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Analysts' average forecast was $14.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Intel have risen about 11 percent this year, outperforming the Nasdaq composite index, which has been flat. Analysts recommending the company say it has been punished too much for its lag in mobile computing and point to the stock's 3.6 percent dividend yield.

Intel said it spent $4 billion to buy back shares during the third quarter and authorized another $10 billion for more buybacks.

The Santa Clara, California company is rushing to develop more energy efficient chips for tablets and phones although it is not expected to become competitive in mobile any time soon.

It is also promoting Ultrabooks, a new super-thin category of laptops using Intel processors -- similar to Apple's MacBook Air.

Early Ultrabook models, meant to combine the best features of tablets and laptops, may seem expensive to consumers, analysts say. But as new features are added to them Intel expects the Ultrabooks to account for 40 percent of the consumer PC market by the end of next year.

Intel's GAAP net income in the third quarter was $3.5 billion, up 17 percent. Earnings per share were 65 cents. Analysts on average had expected 61 cents.

Intel said non-GAAP revenue in the third quarter was $14.3 billion, up 29 percent and higher than the $13.87 billion expected on average by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Intel jumped 4.66 percent in extended trade after closing up 0.52 percent at $23.40.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Richard Chang)