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Why Intel Is Up Just 3% So Far in 2018

By Anders Bylund - Nov 15, 2018 at 7:51PM

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The computer-chip giant stumbled over a handful of different roadblocks in 2018.

Semiconductor giant Intel (INTC -0.52%) is having a difficult year. Amid manufacturing issues, Chinese-American trade wars, and scandals in the C-suite, the stock has struggled to keep up with the general market. Share prices are trading almost exactly sideways over the last 52 weeks, looking back at a gain of just 2.8% since early January.

The road to this humble milestone was a rocky one, too. Intel's stock price stands 13% above its 52-week lows but 18% below the annual highs. Those are some wild swings for an industry giant and Dow Jones Industrials member with a $220 billion market cap.

A large Intel logo, situated outside the Robert Noyce building at the company's headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

Image source: Intel.

What happened to Intel in 2018?

Back in February, Chipzilla admitted to having production issues. That's bad news for a company that counts a constant state of next-generation manufacturing technology as a serious competitive advantage, and it gave smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD 0.80%) a chance to seize the day. That possibility has been haunting Intel all year, even though AMD doesn't seem to have taken advantage of this rare opportunity.

A few months later, CEO Brian Krzanich resigned after five years on the job. He was allegedly violating Intel's code of conduct by having a "consensual relationship" with a lower-ranked employee at the company. The company is still searching for a permanent replacement, and longtime CFO Bob Swan is running the show in the interim. Fellow Motley Fool Ashraf Eassa had been hoping Krzanich would step out, but it's never fun to see a high-ranking executive make a quick exit under scandalous circumstances.

As for this summer's heated trade arguments between China and America, entire industries have seen their stock prices suffer as a direct result. Intel followed right along as investors tried to figure out how badly this political conflict might hurt the company. In October, Swan shared the following statement as part of the third-quarter earnings call:

As you know, China is a big market for us. We've got some important customers there, and it's an important part of our global supply chain. So as that -- as this most recent round of tariffs kind of play out, and we're doing a lot of work with our customers to ensure that the global supply chain can be adjusted and adapted to deal with any tariffs that come down the way. But I think it's going to be a wait-and-see as we go into 2019.

At this stage of the game, we don't see any impact on 2018's results, and in 2019, we have what I consider a world-class supply-chain team that can manage and weather the dynamics of changes in movement of goods better than anybody else in the industry. So I think that would be a competitive advantage for us as we go into next year.

Where is Intel going next?

So here we are with just six weeks left in 2018, and Intel's stock chart is stalled at roughly breakeven for the year. And here's where the year's most turbulent issues stand today:

  • Intel claims to have a solution for its manufacturing issues ahead of schedule, closing AMD's window of opportunity in early 2019.
  • As Swan said, those Chinese tariffs may or may not hurt Intel in the end. At the very least, there hasn't been any significant damage done to date.
  • And the company still needs a permanent CEO.

Resolving the CEO issue appears to be at the top of Intel's list of priorities right now. Other than that, the company is doing well, and its product road map looks attractive over the next couple of years.

At the same time, the stock looks cheap at a P/E of just 10.9 after taking the year off from the strident gains it posted in recent years. If you don't own any Intel shares yet, this could be a great time to get started. And we current shareholders might want to add to our positions while the discounts last.

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