updated 1/14/2004 5:34:25 PM ET 2004-01-14T22:34:25

Chip-making giant Intel Corp. posted greater-than-expected profits and record revenue in the fourth quarter, a period marked by strong global demand for personal computers, improved corporate spending and explosive demand for laptop PCs.

The results released Wednesday, which exceeded both the company's forecasts and Wall Street's expectations, are the strongest evidence yet that supports Intel's strategy of continuing to spend on research and equipment during the darkest months of the technology downturn.

"We ended the year on a high note as ongoing strength in emerging markets coupled with improving demand in established markets drove revenue to record levels," said Craig R. Barrett, Intel's chief executive.

For the three months ended Dec. 27, the semiconductor giant earned $2.17 billion, or 33 cents a share, compared with $1.05 billion, or 16 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Sales totaled $8.74 billion, compared with $7.16 billion in the fourth quarter of last year. The results surpassed Intel's previous record sales of $8.73 billion in the third quarter of 2000.

Analysts expected Intel to post a profit of 25 cents per share on sales of $8.65 billion, according to a survey by Thomson First Call. Last month, Intel narrowed its fourth-quarter sales forecast to between $8.1 billion and $8.7 billion.

The company also in December surprised observers by announcing a $611 million charge because its cell phone and handheld computer chip business failed to meet expectations. A week later, the troubled business was merged with another division.

But Intel's core microprocessor business continued to show strength, including its heavily marketed Centrino bundle for wireless laptops.

For the year, Intel earned $5.6 billion, or 85 cents per share, on sales of $30.14 billion. In the previous year, it earned $3.12 billion, or 46 cents per share, on sales of $26.76 billion.

In advance of the earnings news, shares of Intel closed at $33.39, down 20 cents, in Wednesday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. In the extended session, shares lost 75 cents.

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