Part of the Fool's mission is to continue to update investors on the companies they're interested in. As part of that mission to educate, we bring you this series of "Revisited," where we go back to recent SEC filings to dig in deep so you don't have to.
Advanced Micro Devices
Barcelona -- la musica vibro
The battle has been going on for many years, arguably since AMD released its K6 processors as an alternative to the Intel Pentium. Right now, Intel clearly has the upper hand, as its Core 2 processors are spanking the Athlon and Opteron CPUs silly in raw performance, performance per watt, and price/performance metrics.
A year ago, the situation was reversed, and in a few months the tide may turn AMD's way again, when the company releases its newest quad-core micro-architecture, code-named Barcelona. In the words of the hardware know-it-alls at the Tech Report, that product "can't come a moment too soon."
As a result, AMD's stock price has plummeted, and currently rests below the $15 mark. In February 2006, Athlons were all the rage and Intel hadn't yet started its much-publicized price war, and AMD shares traded at more than $40 a pop. Such is life in the tech sector, especially for smaller-cap dark horses like AMD.
Barcelona is due on the street in the third quarter, leaving AMD to do battle on pricing alone for another few months. Aggressive price cuts on both sides of the rivalry have created some great end-user values, but caused plenty of grief for shareholders in both companies. It's not that AMD can't sell enough chips -- according to management's discussion of operations in the 10-K, sales are restricted by manufacturing capacity, not customer demand -- but it would be great to get better margins out of each sale.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
In addition, AMD bought itself into another bitter rivalry with the acquisition of computer graphics chip designer ATI last fall. On that front, Nvidia
Two wars, two embattled positions, and the market at large is taking it all as a sign of impending doom. But as a longtime market watcher, I am convinced that AMD's luck will eventually change in both cases, and the stock price is sure to follow. In the meantime, we're getting some really nice price points at which to start or build a position.
The ATI deal has so far done nothing but hurt margins and net income, and there's plenty of pessimism around that transaction today. But ATI brings many positives into the fold for the long term.
Nvidia makes the graphics chips inside the Sony
And finally, the ATI team brought in the system architecture expertise that AMD had been lacking. The combined team is working on some revolutionary new designs, where the processor, the graphics chips, and the platform chip set that ties the whole system together combine in new ways. Very few people today understand what's cooking in the AMD labs, and when that brew hits store shelves in the next year or two, Barcelona may well look like an afterthought.
Right now, AMD looks beat and beaten, with Intel running away with the money, the power, and the glory. But it won't last forever. The two rivals bring out the best and worst in one another, and when AMD retakes the lead, Intel is sure to have a counterpunch saved up for that occasion.
So it's a highly cyclical business, both in the macroeconomic sense and in the close-up picture of two bitter duelists fighting to the death. Buy low and sell high -- lather, rinse, repeat. The company acknowledges the cyclicality in its discussion of risk factors, and plans accordingly. Right now, both companies live in deep-value territory, though Intel is moving into ritzier neighborhoods already.
- Is It Time to Buy AMD?
- The Best Tech Stock for 2007: AMD
- The Chips Are Down for Our Idols
- Another Reason to Ignore AMD and Intel
See what your fellow Fools think about AMD these days in our Motley Fool CAPS intelligent investor network. More than 1,500 players have weighed in on the plucky chip maker, making it a two-star stock today.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an AMD shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and you underestimate Foolish disclosure at your own risk.