It seems clear the PC market remains on many investors' minds when considering Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), even if reports of its death have been exaggerated. Last month's Q1 earnings announcement had a familiar ring to it: declining revenue from Intel's PC business unit hit year-over-year earnings hard. And that wasn't the end of the bad news. Based on guidance for the current quarter and fiscal year, investors can expect more of the same: little to no topline revenue growth.
At first glance, past results and future expectations hardly seem a ringing endorsement to buy Intel stock. But upon further review, now might be the ideal time for long-term growth and income investors to take the plunge.
What's not to like
The aforementioned declining PC market has negatively affected Intel and others in the tech industry, including Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), in a couple of ways. On the one hand, last quarter was a microcosm of the challenges Intel has faced for the past couple of years. First quarter revenue of $12.78 billion was nearly identical to 2014's Q1 sales of $12.74 billion, due to an 8% drop year-over-year in Intel's Client Computing Group.
Little to no topline growth won't get many investors or industry pundits excited, especially when the outlook for the sector causing the pressure -- PCs -- remains gloomy.
Which ties into the second problem Intel and Cisco have experienced: both are still viewed by investors as dependent upon "old school" technologies like PCs and in-house enterprise solutions, Intel with its processors and Cisco with its hardware. And therein lies the opportunity.
What's to like
It's been two years since Intel named Brian Krzanich its sixth CEO. When Krazanich was appointed, Intel was already behind in making the shift to burgeoning markets like mobile computing and the rapidly growing cloud. Not surprisingly, Krazanich made it clear his goal was to "lead Intel into the next era."
Which brings us back to last quarter's financial results. Over half of Intel's total revenues -- $7.4 billion, to be precise -- were derived from its client computing group in Q1. Remember, that was an 8% drop compared to 2014. What made up the difference and allowed Intel to at least break even, revenue-wise? Data Centers.
Due in large part to the industry's shift to cloud computing, data centers are expected to become the overwhelming information hosting and analysis hubs of the future. Research firm IDC predicts that by next year, half the world's "raw compute capacity" and 70% of the world's "raw storage capacity" will reside in data centers. Intel's data center unit generated $3.7 billion in revenues last quarter, a 19% jump in sales. And, just as important, data center revenues continue to make up a larger portion of Intel's overall revenue pie.
Krzanich's cohort at Cisco, out-going CEO John Chambers, is in much the same boat as "B.K." (Chambers' nickname for Krzanich). Cisco grew its data center business by 21% last quarter, and is now tracking at a $3 billion annual run-rate. But like Intel, Cisco can't seem to shake its reputation as a supplier to outdated markets.
A couple more considerations
At $533 million in revenue last quarter, Intel's Internet of Things unit may not seem worth getting excited about. After all, relative to Intel's total sales, that's not much. But its IoT results shouldn't be ignored. Krzanich and team are early on in their IoT efforts, and that $533 million represents an 11% improvement over a year ago. For long-term investors, what's important is Intel's growth trends in the key areas that define its new direction.
Another sign Intel is turning the corner -- though not as critical as its tangible results in data centers and IoT -- is the number of investors shorting its stock. "Shorts" are betting on a stock's decline for their return. Intriguingly, the number of investors shorting Intel is at a three-year low, implying there are a growing number of investors who believe that when Intel's stock moves, it won't be down.
Intel also boasts one of the industry's top dividend yields of about 3% -- slightly better than Cisco's -- which should make the wait for the market to finally recognize this isn't your parent's Intel anymore a bit easier to tolerate. But the real upside is in Intel's potential for long-term growth. Krzanich has laid the foundation for change, and is beginning to see results. It shouldn't be long before the market finally recognizes that, and investors in Intel now will reap the rewards.