In case you missed it: news from week of January 20

semiconductors on board
The earnings season got off to a mixed start for the electronics industry last week. Intel had a strong quarter, but the lingering effects of the 2019 downturn remain. (Pixabay)

The electronics industry was dominated by earnings news last week as companies started announcing December 2019 quarter and 2019 full year results. The news was mixed as some companies saw signs of an upturn, but others continued to experience lackluster financial performance as the weak market conditions of 2019 continued to linger.

First, the good news. Microprocessor giant Intel ended 2019 on a high note, posting record revenue of $72 billion, up 2% over 2018. Intel earned $6.9 billion on sales of $20.2 billion, up 33% and 8% respectively, over the same quarter a year ago.

Intel posted gains in most of its business groups, and saw its investments pay off in emerging areas like artificial intelligence. Intel saw substantial design-ins for its 10th generation Intel core processors.

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Also finishing 2019 on an upbeat note was STMicrolectronics, which posted sales of $2.75 billion in its December quarter, 4% higher than the year-ago quarter. Revenues for 2019 reached $9.5 billion, down 1% from 2018. Net income for all of 2019 was just over $1 billion. ST said analog, MEMS and sensors drove much of the year-end growth.

But the news was not good for everyone. Texas Instruments (TI) saw its December quarter earnings and sales decline from the same quarter a year ago. Company CEO Rich Templeton said results were affected by weaknesses in its analog and embedded product sectors.

Component suppliers, which have spent much of 2019 in the doldrums, also continued to experience problems. AVX Corp. posted net earnings of $47.9 million, or 28 cents per diluted share, on sales of $344.4 million for its fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2019, down from $74.3 million, or 44 cents per diluted share, on sales of $442.4 million for the same quarter in 2018. AVX attributed the results to remaining high inventory levels, particularly at its distributors, and weak orders.

In other news, Google CEO Sundar Pichai echoed the cry for or an international regulatory approach to artificial intelligence technology in an op-ed published in the Financial Times. Pichai said that government regulation should come in addition to ethical development principles within technology companies, citing Google’s own efforts that include conducting independent human-rights assessments of new products. 

Pichai’s concern was that AI should be harnessed by the industry to benefit people.

There was also some interesting STEM news last week. According to Wallet Hub, Houston was the top city for STEM workers when the cost of living is factored in, with a median wage of $99,000. STEM workers in San Jose had the highest earnings at $141,576 annually, but the high cost of living offset the workers’ high wages.