Intel profits surge despite AMD settlement

We noted earlier that the PC market as a whole enjoyed solid growth last quarter. Intel didn't do too badly either, it seems: the chipmaker has posted an impressive 875% surge in net income, hand-in-hand with revenue of $10.6 billion and an eye-popping 65% gross margin.

Despite shelling out that $1.25-billion settlement money to AMD, Intel still posted total net income of $2.3 billion for the fourth quarter. As you'll see in the comparison table below, that figure compares pretty favorably with past quarters:

  Q4 2008 Q3 2009 Q4 2009
Revenue $8.2 billion $9.4 billion $10.6 billion
Net income $234 million $1.9 billion $2.3 billion
Gross margin 53.1% 58% 65%

What's up with that $234 million figure from the fourth quarter of 2008? The company didn't take a huge hit to its gross margin, but it did write off a one-time net loss of over $1.1 billion "primarily due to a billion-dollar reduction in the carrying value of the company's investments in Clearwire." Q4 '08 operating income added up to $1.5 billion, which doesn't look quite as disastrous, so that 875% surge is a tad misleading.

Intel says it saw double-digit revenue growth across all of its business groups, although surprisingly, Atom processor and chipset sales only went up 6%. Look at data for the whole of 2009, though, and you'll see Atom revenue rose 167% in total—nothing to complain about there.

As encouraging as last quarter's results sound, Intel still saw its overall 2009 results fall below those from the year before. 2008's $37.6-billion revenue and $5.3-billion net income turned into $35.1-billion revenue and $4.4-billion net income last year. Admittedly, though, the chipmaker did have to cough up $1.45 billion to the European Commission and $1.25 billion to AMD as a result of its alleged anticompetitive behavior.

How will things shape up this quarter? Intel expects revenue to hit $9.3-10.1 billion and its gross margin to shrink slightly to 59-63%. First quarters tend to be seasonally down, so that kind of drop wouldn't be too surprising.

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