Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has continued to struggle as competitors it once dominated continue to build competitive leads on the venerable chip company. It seemed to lose its way as it struggled for direction following the decline in the PC. Still, like these peers in previous years, a coming shift in technology may return Intel, and by extension, INTC stock, back to prominence.
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Intel’s latest attempt to make a comeback revolves around an effort to get back into graphics processing units (GPUs). The company had conceded this segment of the market to Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) after dabbling in the graphics card market 20 years ago. However, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other tech innovations have significantly increased the importance of GPUs.
Consequently, Intel has also announced that it will introduce its Xe graphics card in 2020. The tech firm has also begun to phase out its partnership with Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) on the Kaby Lake-G mobile CPUs.
Intel Stock Lacks a Catalyst
Whether this will become a catalyst for INTC remains unclear. Other PC-era stocks, such as Nvidia, AMD, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) successfully redefined themselves. However, INTC remains out of favor with investors.
While its closest peers have attracted premium price-earnings ratios in recent years, INTC stock trades at a forward PE ratio of 11.7. This happened for understandable reasons. The company allowed itself to fall behind AMD in the CPU market. Moreover, scandals in the C-suite, as well as mixed successes in moving beyond the PC market, have placed further pressure on Intel stock.
It has now traded in a range for almost two years. INTC stock sells close to the high end of its range now. Still, with earnings projected to fall by 4.1% this year and grow by only 1.1% in fiscal 2020, Intel seems to lack a catalyst. From this point of view, INTC appears fairly valued.
Investors Should Consider the Future
However, the price also implies that the company has rested on its laurels. The company’s initiatives seem to indicate otherwise. Some of my colleagues also make a great point about the long-term case for INTC.
Ian Bezek says, “it is doing better than you probably realize.” Todd Shriber calls the profit potential “considerable” if Intel can boost its AI presence. If the company can capitalize on this potential, they think Intel stock will move much higher, and I agree.
The move into GPUs may or may not succeed. However, the company still has an ace in the hole — 5G. I stated in my previous article that “network cloudification could again bring servers powered by Intel chips to the forefront.”
Smartphone manufacturers have begun to make devices with Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) 5G-compatible chips. This means the switch to 5G is now in its early stages. Once consumers and businesses begin to see the benefits of 5G first-hand, the benefits could finally accrue to INTC itself. Intel’s self-driving vehicle unit Mobileye stands as one of these likely beneficiaries.
Analysts have begun to price this possibility into earnings forecasts. Although earnings growth appears stagnant through next year, Wall Street projects average annual profit increases of 7.33% per year for the next five years. If Intel can return to double-digit profit growth, INTC stock could see the same type of multiple expansion that has benefitted its PC-era peers in recent years. That promise alone could make a position in INTC worthwhile.
The Bottom Line on INTC
Despite a move into GPUs, the return of Intel to prominence likely hinges on 5G. Given the paltry earnings growth forecasted for the company in the near term, Intel stock appears fairly valued at 11.7-times forward earnings.
However, analysts forecast longer-term growth to move higher in future years. The adoption of 5G by itself looks poised to propel Intel higher. 5G will also drive the AI, VR, and other applications that will further benefit Intel.
The 5G-driven technological shift that analysts have talked about for years has now begun. This could benefit INTC, so investors should consider buying sooner rather than later.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.
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