"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main"
-- "No Man is an Island," by John Donne, 1624
No man or corporation is an island, but microchip giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) comes pretty darn close. The world's biggest producer of semiconductors will keep growing its already humongous business organically -- and then pump the resulting cash flows into higher dividends.
When discussing Intel's brilliant first-quarter results last night, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith explained what Intel intends to do with its growing cash hoard. Intel paid out $0.40 per share in dividends back in 2006, and now the annual payout stands at $0.63 per share. That solid growth trend "continues to be the priority," according to Smith. In fact, Intel has been holding back on share buybacks lately to build the cash balance -- only to dole it out to shareholders in the form of dividends.
So Intel increasingly focuses on dividends rather than acquisitions, which makes sense given how isolated the company is in today's market. The only credible competitor in PC chips is Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) . Include graphics products and other peripheral system chips and you can count NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) as a rival. In the server world, you get some resistance from IBM (NYSE: IBM ) and Sun Microsystems -- now a division of Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) -- because these significant server builders also design some high-end chips of their own. And that's about it.
Intel can't very well buy any of these companies even if it had unheard-of stacks of cash lying around -- Uncle Sam's antitrust police would shut that deal down in a heartbeat. And there really aren't any smaller fish to fry in any of Intel's areas of expertise. The company would have to move into new markets if it wants to go on a shopping spree. Simpler, then, to just reward shareholders with a sensible dividend strategy.
This approach is not unique to Intel in the semiconductor industry: Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) and Analog Devices (NYSE: ADI ) also have fairly dominant positions in their semiconductor niches and pay what would be considered generous dividend yields in the tech world, too, for example. But it's hard to find another chip wrangler with the long-term staying power of mighty Intel. This is one of those stocks you could buy once and then forget it as the dividend machine makes you rich in silent ardor.