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Players, insert coin: PlayStation 4, Xbox One top up AMD's coffers

Chipzilla's lone x86 competitor struggles back onto its feet in Q4 2013

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AMD's provision of processors for Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 consoles appear to have worked its magic on the chip maker's bottom line.

The company's revenue for its fourth quarter of 2013 came in just above analysts' estimates, and significantly above its earnings for the same quarter in its previous fiscal year.

Revenues for the quarter, announced on Tuesday after the markets closed, were $1.59bn, a bump-up of 38 per cent when compared with the same quarter in 2012, and up 9 per cent from its profitable third quarter of 2013 – a profit it had predicted when reporting its second quarter in July.

The average estimates of the 24 Wall street moneymen polled by Yahoo! Finance predicted revenues for the quarter of $1.54bn resulting in an earnings per share (EPS) of $0.06 – an EPS prediction that was spot-on. Those canvassed by Thomson Reuters agreed with Yahoo! Finance's analysts on the revenue estimate, but pegged EPS to be a penny less.

For the full fiscal 2013, however, AMD's revenues dipped a bit in non-GAAP calculations, from $5.42bn in fiscal 2012 to $5.30bn. Net income losses for the full year, however – also measured in non-GAAP terms – improved from a loss of $114m in fiscal 2012 to a smaller loss of $83m in fiscal 2013.

"Strong execution of our strategic transformation plan drove significant revenue growth and improved profitability in the fourth quarter," said AMD president and CEO Rory Read, citing the "continued ramp of our semi-custom SoCs and leadership graphics products."

Diving a bit deeper into the numbers shows that AMD's Computing Solutions revenue slipped both sequentially and year-over-year, largely due to lower chipset sales. However, as an AMD spokesman noted in an email, the company's Kabini and Temash parts are each system-on-chip packages, so AMD doesn't sell southbridge chips along with them, as the did with the earlier Brazos processor.

On the positive side, the company's Graphics and Visual Solutions revenue increased both sequentially and year-on-year. "GVS segment revenue was up 29 per cent sequentially, primarily due to sales of semi-custom SoCs to Sony and Microsoft for their next-generation game console offerings," company CFO Devinder Kumar wrote in a prepared statement.

Those design wins with Sony and Microsoft have done AMD a world of good, seeing as how those companies announced earlier this month that they had sold 4.2 million and 3 million of their new game consoles, respectively.

Those numbers won't continue to grow at the same rate, however. As Kumar explained, "We expect Graphics and Visual Solutions segment revenue to be down" in the current quarter, "coming off a strong Q4 for our semi-custom SoCs." AMD's Computing Solutions revenue is expected to drop, as well – a normal occurrence in the post-holiday period.

It's that damn moribund PC market again. Last week, Intel reported that its PC division was experiencing flat revenues, despite CEO Brian Krzanich reporting that the company was seeing "signs of stabilization in the PC segment."

It remains to be seen whether AMD's recently unveiled, heterogeneous system architecture–enabled Kaveri chip will light a fire under the PC market anytime soon. AMD, however, apparently doesn't think so, seeing as how its guidance for its Computing Solutions segment projects a quarterly drop.

But AMD fans can hope – and they can take comfort in that fact that, as Kumar writes, "We also returned to profitability and positive free cash flow in the second half of 2013 and maintained our cash balances above $1.1 billion, significantly higher than our target minimum of $700 million."

Don't look now, but it appears that AMD may be successfully engineering what Kumar noted as "the strategic transformation plan we outlined in October 2012." ®

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