Why Analysts and Investors Are Loving Intel Again (and Should in 2015)

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Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) hosted its analysts day and brought big cheers, in part on solid guidance, but mostly due to the unexpected dividend hike. Intel is still underloved on Wall Street, but 24/7 Wall St. sees more and more analysts getting on board as the mobile-only emphasis begins to take a back seat. Intel is now the top-performing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) stock of 2014, with gains above 41%, so investors and analysts simply will not be able to keep ignoring the largest processor company in the world.

24/7 Wall St. had initially prepared notes for this article after the analysts day for a weekend story, only to see that Barron’s wrote that it is calling for another 30% upside — rising to $48 in the next two years. Again, Intel is still underloved on Wall Street because everyone was thinking (or still do think) that the only game in town is mobile computing via smartphones and tablets — where Intel has greatly lagged, and where it will lose money in 2015 as it ramps up. So, here are the driving forces and views behind what is creating a more favorable view of Intel.

Outside of an unexpected dividend hike, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) dropping support of Windows XP was a huge driver that reset demand trends for 2014. The old WinTel alliance had not been worth much of late, but Microsoft’s departure from supporting XP drove enterprise spending for the Windows 7 operating system, which also created the demand for much higher processors and more powerful PCs.

In addition, Intel’s new adjusted 2.7% dividend yield will put it back in the upper half of DJIA dividend yields. It also will be a very high dividend yield for a technology giant, with a yield ranking of about number 15 out of the 70 tech stocks in the S&P 500.

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Intel offered 2015 guidance at its analysts day for revenues to grow in the mid-single-digit range, with gross margin of 62% (±2%), and R&D plus MG&A spending as a percentage of revenue is expected to fall with spending of around $20 billion (±$400 million). Capital spending in 2015 is expected to be $10.5 billion (±$500 million). The dividend hike was the big surprise because as recently as 2013, and even in early 2014, some reports had said Intel may still be unable to raise that payout.

The Barron’s report was based on the notion that Intel is only halfway through a five-year doubling process and trades at a 7% discount to the S&P 500. Barron’s feels that the stock is still unpopular and will start to win more favorable ratings.

Here are several short analyst calls: FBR Capital Markets maintained its Outperform rating but raised its target to $40 from $36. J.P. Morgan predicted that Intel will exit next year with $3.00 in share of earnings in sight. Stifel has a Buy rating, but it raised its target price to $39 from $36 after the meeting. Bank of America Merrill Lynch reiterated its Buy rating ahead of the analysts day, along with a $43 price target.

Even the less aggressive firms have increased their views. RBC Capital Markets has only a Sector Perform rating, but it raised its price target to $38 from $35. Cowen has a Market Perform rating but raised its target price to $36 from $34.

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Wells Fargo has an Outperform rating on Intel, but it also a Top Pick of the firm, with a valuation range of $36.00 to $43.00. The firm sees continued growth and said:

Intel’s strategy includes a commitment to driving manufacturing technology leadership and remaining in the PC processor market, expanding growth in data center platforms and moving into complementary markets (i.e. Internet of Things). … We think Intel’s competitive strength and technology leadership will drive revenue, profitability and share value over the next several years. … We think that Intel’s manufacturing advantage is an important differentiating factor competitively for Intel’s server, PC and mobile processors, and we think that it also provides a compelling reason for major companies to consider using Intel as a foundry. … and we expect that ramping 4G sales and alliances with companies such as Spreadtrum in China will help Intel grow its modem/smartphone chip presence in 2015.