In today's environment of layoffs, revenue shortfalls, contracting businesses, and bankruptcies, a headline that announces business expansion is eye-catching. We have seen so little news of business expansion the past six months, and most of the good news has been from biotech companies such as Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI). Technology producers are the least likely to announce expanding product lines. But today, among the thicket of falling stock prices, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) did just that -- it announced expansion.
The chip giant announced a new technologies solution center in India to provide electronic-business applications services. This new center is just one of 15 that Intel is opening worldwide in a $100 million spending spree. These new service centers supply hardware, software, testing equipment, and engineering services, all to provide comprehensive e-business server and networking solutions.
This initial $100 million investment is paltry for Intel, which has billions in cash, but the investment to make the business grow will presumably be ongoing. What is most significant is that, while young e-business supply companies are stumbling, Intel is stepping into markets with solutions. Also, Intel is a company that customers can be certain will be in business one year from now, and five years from now, so they can feel comfortable doing business with it.
This continued expansion is exactly what Intel's CEO spoke of in January when he said that despite slowing demand and a weakened outlook, Intel will still spend $7.5 billion on capital investments, and billions more on research and development and business expansion. Because it is when other companies are on the defensive that it is best, if you can, to take your business into full attack mode. When other companies are not spending to better serve their customers, but are merely hoping to survive a rough time, stable companies can move into markets, invest money to provide solutions, and start taking customers both immediately and when the economy rebounds, because they'll be most ready for the rebound.
As an investor during these tough times, look for companies that can, and do, continue to spend to serve their customers and obtain new customers, sometimes even in new, related businesses. Seek companies with superlative balance sheets and management with the courage to expand into a strong headwind. These companies will gain market share and should be even stronger when the economy improves. Now is the time for capable businesses to expand and take opportunities. Now is the time to grab customers from weaker competitors. Now is the time to stand tall, when most other companies are crouching.
That said, as you seek expanding companies, make sure that the companies are expanding in directions that make long-term sense. Expansion is a horrible curse if it is taken carelessly. Not only does expanding cost money and time, but misguided expansion costs money and time (and focus) to wind down after failure, and improper expansion can set an entire company reeling. Intel's expansion is slight compared to its core business, so the risks are slight, but we still must understand it and believe in it if we want to continue owning the stock.
At $24 per share, Intel is below our average cost basis for the first time in at least two years, and it is below the price that we first paid for some shares in September 1997. Since its high last year, the Nasdaq has lost nearly 70%. That is an unprecedented decline, following a record ascent. Drip Port is glad to be holding its own, even though we were once up 200% on Intel.
Eventually, this decline will end. The market averages may be many, many years from reaching their 2000 highs again, but leading companies, like Intel, we believe, will eventually bounce back much better than most. Eventually.
Meanwhile, we average into more shares.