Let the chest-beating, hair-rending, and sackcloth-wearing begin -- the end of the world is nigh.
Actually, scratch that. Intel
I realize that dozens of columns have already been penned on the subject of last night's "earnings miss," declaiming the company's past failures and proclaiming its future ones. But was the news really that bad?
Yes, analysts expected Intel to earn $0.43 per diluted share in its fiscal fourth quarter. Yes, the company missed that target by $0.03. And yes, the company's projected Q1 2006 sales numbers fell well short of the Street's hopes. Still, the widespread panic reflected in last night's 9% after-hours sell-off does seem a mite overblown. After all, Intel had a great year overall in 2005, and whatever the 2006 macroeconomic picture might be, Intel's performance this year shows that the business itself is doing just fine.
So while the rest of the financial world is busy obsessing over the quarterly earnings shortfall and foretelling doom in the year to come, let's take a moment to reflect upon the company's long-term performance.
In 2005, Intel posted 13% better sales than it did in 2004. With that sales growth to build on, the company achieved a 15% improvement in net profits and boosted its profits per diluted share by nearly 21%. One way the company managed to turn 13% sales growth into 21% EPS growth: capitalizing on market panics (like this morning's) by buying back its shares on the cheap. Over the past year, Intel reduced its diluted share count by just less than 5% -- yielding fewer slices of equity pie among which its net earnings had to be divvied up.
Now let's take a long-term look forward. Intel recently boosted its dividend by 25%. If yesterday's sell-off lasts through today, the new dividend gives the stock a respectable 1.7% yield. The company also authorized as much as $25 billion worth of stock buybacks -- enough to repurchase as much as 18% of its remaining shares. If implemented in full, the buyback promises to give earnings per share a material boost in coming quarters and years. What's more, because the authorization exceeds Intel's cash on hand more than twofold, it shows real confidence that Intel (a) expects to continue generating positive free cash flow sufficient to make up the difference and (b) believes that its shares are so materially undervalued that it's willing to take on debt temporarily and/or divert significant cash from operations to take advantage of the opportunity this sell-off is giving it.
So tell all the doom and gloom you want. When I listen to Intel's report, all I hear is opportunity knocking.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of Intel.