Intel's Extreme Makeover

Much as I've stuck it to Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) this year, I'm also the first to admit that the chip maker always takes a fight seriously. So when all signs pointed to shorting the stock last month, I should have known that Intel would do just about anything to right the ship.

Fast-forward to this morning, when Intel's board announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini would succeed Craig Barrett as CEO in May. Barrett will step into former CEO Andy Grove's role as chairman. Grove will become a senior adviser to the company.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Otellini has seen huge successes in a 30-year career at Intel. That includes helping to bring to market the Pentium processor for PCs in the 1990s. Today, computer chips such as the Pentium account for 80% of Intel's sales. Talk about finding the winning lottery ticket.

The appointment comes a day after the board approved the repurchase of 500 million shares of stock. That would cost more than $11.5 billion as of this writing. The board also bumped Intel's quarterly dividend from $0.04 to $0.08, for a dividend yield of roughly 1.38%. With the Standard & Poor's 500 yielding 1.60%, this isn't a market beater, but it's a vast improvement from prior levels. It's also the second time Intel has raised its payout this year.

If all this leaves you wondering whether I've changed my position about shorting Intel, the answer is a resounding no. Yeah, I know I could be spectacularly wrong. Share buybacks could more than offset options dilution and give earnings a boost. But the buybacks and an improved dividend can't obscure the chip maker's execution problems and inventory woes. Plus, there's that little problem of an anemic market for chips, which is expected to see little if any growth next year.

Still, give Intel its due. The board is calling for buying back stock near 52-week lows, is turning to fresh blood at a time when it's needed most, and is using its cash hoard very, very effectively. That's smart management and deserves a polite golf clap if you must applaud. Just don't forget that Intel's extreme makeover is also a product of its own extreme blunders.

For related Foolishness:

Think Intel's dividend is worth paying for? You haven't seen anything yet, buddy.Motley Fool Income Investorchief analyst Mathew Emmert seeks market-beating yields daily for his subscribers. Take a free, 30-day trial today.

Fool contributorTim Beyersactually watches the show Extreme Makeover. No, not that Extreme Makeover; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He thinks it's the best show on TV. Tim doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. You can get a peek at his stock holdings by checking out his Fool profile, which ishere.


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