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"Back in black, I hit the sack
I've been too long -- I'm glad to be back
Yes, I'm let loose from the noose
That's kept me hanging about"
-- From "Back In Black," by AC/DC, 1980
It's been a long time coming, but Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) is firmly back in black.
AMD's first-quarter earnings were positive, whether or not you insist on GAAP accounting. Non-GAAP net income in this case is lower than the GAAP number, because AMD backs out the net impact of the now fully separated manufacturing operation, GlobalFoundries. So pro forma earnings landed at $0.09 per share, up from a $0.30 loss per share a year ago.
You may remember a slight pro forma loss attributable to AMD common shareholders last quarter when you discount the decidedly one-time windfall of $1.25 billion from Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) in a legal settlement. However, under manufacturing-free results, last quarter was actually profitable to the tune of $0.11 per share.
The positive effect of that adjustment shows AMD in a new and much healthier light. Assuming that the company can keep the pedal to the metal with strong sales -- total revenue of $1.6 billion was an impressive 33% improvement over the year-ago period -- there's no reason to believe that AMD will fall back in the red anytime soon.
And the company has plenty of tools on hand to keep the fires burning. As GlobalFoundries ramps up its next-generation 32-nanometer manufacturing process, the long-awaited AMD Fusion products will roll out in mass-production in the back half of this year. "Select customers," presumably including AMD's largest clients like Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , have already received samples of these chips and should be working up some new systems on that basis.
In case you forgot, Fusion puts the media-processing heft of the ATI graphics division to work directly in the central processor, while also opening up new ways to introduce specialized helper chips into the mix. This could be a repeat of the glory days in 2003, when AMD stole Intel's performance and innovation crowns with the Athlon 64 processor and then saw its share price produce a mind-blowing 600% return over the next three years.
"Could" is a long way from "will," mind you, and it will take at least three more quarters before AMD sees any benefits from Fusion and 32-nm factories. By then, we'll know a lot more about what Fusion can do and how it will affect the market, so I'd suggest holding off on backing up the truck until we've seen some more pudding.
Would you buy AMD today? You'll get a nice 7% discount based on pessimism toward today's earnings. Value investors might prefer Intel at this point, growth gurus would be better off looking to a smaller more lightly followed semiconductor player Atheros Communications (Nasdaq: ATHR ) , and Google might fill both of those tickets better than AMD. But that's just my humble opinion -- tell us what you think in the comments below.