At its recent investor meeting, semiconductor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) gave a dour forecast for 2014, clearly disappointing investors who were hoping the company could get back on track after a subpar 2013. Shares fell hard after management warned investors to expect flat results next year, and it's now reasonable to question the company's strategic vision.
With the personal computer market in decline and industry growth clearly in mobile devices going forward, should you give Intel the benefit of the doubt? Or, on the other hand, does a better opportunity exist for technology investors?
Intel coming up empty
Intel's push to get its chips into the mobile device market in a meaningful way has been a costly, and to this point unproductive, endeavor. This has clearly been a source of stress for investors, and for good reason: A multitude of industry research confirms that growth in personal computer shipments has ground to a halt.
Market research firm IDC recently reported that global PC shipments dropped 7% in the third quarter, and the 2014 forecast calls for another year of decline. Unfortunately, Intel's management did little to assuage fears of an eroding PC market during the company's recent investor meeting. Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich stated that revenue and gross margins would be flat next year. This is clearly a disappointment to investors who were hoping any of the company's growth initiatives would gain traction.
Earlier this year, Intel laid out plans to launch an Internet television service with live and on-demand content. However, several bumps in the road—such as struggling to reach content deals with media companies—have caused Intel to consider scrapping the idea altogether. And, of course, there's the difficulty Intel is having getting its chips into mobile devices.
Of course, Intel isn't the only chipmaker falling on hard times as the industry suffers. Smaller competitor Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) has seen revenue fall 13% through the first nine months of the year. To the company's credit, its net loss has narrowed significantly through the first three quarters of 2013 versus the same period last year. And, Advanced Micro Devices' gross margin has expanded by 13 percentage points over the first nine months. By comparison, Intel's profits are going in the opposite direction. Earnings per share are down 17% through the first nine months of the year.
How to gain exposure to mobile
For die-hard value investors who favor a cheap valuation and high dividend yield, Intel is certainly a reasonable choice. And, if you're willing to ride out what's likely to be a disappointing 2014, Intel will at least pay you a solid 3.75% dividend. However, to really gain exposure to the mobile device chip segment, where the industry growth clearly will be going forward, investors should consider Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).
That's because Qualcomm's chips are utilized in a variety of smartphones and tablets, across device makers. This is abundantly clear from Qualcomm's results. The company just wrapped up its fiscal 2013, and it was a great year across the board. Revenue and earnings per share rose 30% and 11% versus fiscal 2012.
Going forward, growth is expected to continue as the company benefits from strong industry tailwinds. Management expectations are for double-digit compound annual growth in revenues and earnings per share over the next five years.
The Foolish takeaway
While Intel may be able to engineer its turnaround and provide a surprising 2014, early indications are that next year won't be very promising. The PC market is clearly stagnating, and Intel has not yet demonstrated that it can get its chips into smartphones or tablets. There are certainly merits to investing in Intel, which include its conservative valuation and hefty dividend yield. However, growth investors have a better alternative.
Qualcomm is firing on all cylinders right now, and is optimally positioned to benefit from strong growth in mobile devices. It holds a higher valuation than Intel, but it's clearly worth the premium. As a result, technology investors on the hunt for strong growth should consider Qualcomm.