Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) is the world's largest microprocessor manufacturer, and has been on the leading edge of this technology since 1971. Its mission revolves around "relentlessly delivering the platform and technology advancements that become essential to the way we work and live." Today, Intel's largest business segments are PCs and servers, but it hopes to soon crack the mobile market and become the world's preferred processor for smartphones, tablets, and any other super-portable devices yet to come.
The case for Intel
Intel remains one of the most coveted workplaces among hardware engineers in the world. Fortune ranks Intel 68th on its latest list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, citing a $50,000 tuition reimbursement, on-site medical care, and an eight-week paid vacation offered on top of normal vacation time every seven years. Last year, over 4,000 employees took this extended sabbatical. Glassdoor ranks Intel 31st on its list of the 50 Best Places to Work, and over 2,000 of the company's employees have offered opinions -- 82% would recommend the company to a friend, and 88% approve of retiring CEO Paul Otellini. Intel's average salaries (primarily for tech positions) often approach or exceed six figures. Intel's fourth-place rank on Corporate Responsibility's 100 Best Corporate Citizens list for 2012 is boosted by its first-place ranking in the employee relations category.
Intel possesses one of the world's top brands, according to consulting firm Interbrand. The company ranks eighth on the list, thanks in part to marketing efforts and strategic shifts that are moving it from "a technology first mind-set to one of user first." Intel commands greater than 80% market share in notebook and server processors and greater than 70% in desktop processors.
Lately, Intel's shareholders haven't been rewarded with gains much greater than those earned by index investors. Over the past five years, Intel's total return has been 34%, which is better than the 14% return of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to which it belongs. However, the Dow's total return, with component dividends included, pulls it up to a 31% five-year gain and into a virtual tie with Intel. Intel's revenue (37%) and net income (75%) have both grown in excess of its returns, and the company's P/E ratio now rests near all-time lows.
Intel's corporate citizenship goals are, to put it mildly, ambitious. The chip maker's social vision is to "connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth." Intel matches philanthropic grants from its employees, and also pursues a variety of global good-citizen initiatives, which range from maximizing energy efficiency to providing educational materials in developing countries through over 7 million PCs delivered via nonprofit collaboration. Intel also ranks seventh on Newsweek's latest rankings of America's Greenest Companies due to its use of more green power than any other U.S. company and its 60% reduction in greenhouse emissions since 2007. Corporate Responsibility ranks Intel third for positive environmental stewardship.
Foolish bottom line
No company is perfect, and even one as well-run as Intel has its shortcomings. Intel, like many global high-tech companies, evades many millions in local taxes through complicated legal schemes. Intel has also been one of the weaker tech companies from an investing standpoint in recent years despite a strong dividend, and has been a particularly terrible acquirer. In 2010, before its more recent buys were fully digested, Business Insider discovered that Intel's 15 largest acquisitions since 1999 had all been complete flops.
Even though Intel may have flaws, its positive contributions to the world appear to substantially outweigh its well-known shortcomings. After considering the totality of its performance, we believe Intel belongs among the best companies in America.