Shares of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) are lagging in early afternoon while chipmaking peers such as Qualcomm and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) post decent gains. While trying to read the collective mind of the market can often be an exercise in guesswork and futility, the likely reason for this underperformance is a European court's upholding of the $1.4 billion fine that Intel had to pay for anti-competitive practices (aimed at locking out AMD) back in 2009.
Relax, Intel already paid the fine
Many in the investment community cited this development as a potential negative catalyst for Intel. However, Intel paid the fine long ago and was simply appealing the European Commission decision. That $1.4 billion -- which represents about 14% of the company's trailing 12-month net income -- has already gone poof. At worst, Intel wasn't going to get its money back, and at best the company would have added about $0.28 per share back to its balance sheet
At this point, it seems clear Intel isn't going to get its money back. However, in the grand scheme of things, it's just not a big deal. Furthermore, while back in the days when AMD was competitive the anti-competition claim could have had a leg to stand on, today this is a nonissue. Any market dominance today on Intel's' part in PCs can be chalked up to superior products and a better-funded marketing department.
Some may argue that such practices crippled AMD and led to the competitive situation seen today. However, if you think about it, AMD decimated its own ability to compete when it took on massive amounts of debt to buy graphics-card maker ATI Technologies for a staggering $5.4 billion in 2006 (AMD later took a writedown on that acquisition).
This crippling debt put the company's financial position in the dumps, requiring AMD to sell off manufacturing plants that it could no longer afford. At the same time, AMD couldn't keep up with the research and development spending needed to stay competitive with Intel. When AMD's products were competitive, it couldn't make them fast enough to satisfy demand. Go figure.
While many will make a mountain out of this proverbial molehill, the reality is that this court decision has no material impact on Intel's financials today or going forward. The damage was done when Intel paid the fine in 2009, and there's no reason to believe that this (or anything related to this) will impact the company's financials or stock price on a long-term basis.
In other words, keep calm.
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