Gelsinger is confronting a massive pile-up of inventory, weak demand and the loss of market share – all of which contributed to a historic slump. At the same time, he is trying to speed up the introduction of new production technology, a costly attempt to regain Intel’s industry leadership. But that effort – if successful – will not bear fruit until 2025.
Investors have been sceptical that the chip maker can catch up with rivals, and the stock plunged nearly 50 per cent last year. On Thursday, Gelsinger argued that the company has begun to turn a corner.
“In the things that they can control, they’ve lived through the worst of that pain,” said Cody Acree, an analyst for Benchmark Co.
In the near term, Intel’s financial outlook still looks dim. It expects a loss of 4 cents a share in the second quarter, excluding some items, the company said. That compares with the 2-cent average estimate of analysts.
That initially sent shares down more than 2 per cent in late trading, before a later rally. They had closed at US$29.86, leaving them up 13 per cent this year.
The revenue outlook was a bit brighter, with the company predicting sales of US$11.5 billion to US$12.5 billion. The midpoint of that range exceeds the average analyst estimate of US$11.7 billion.
Intel predicted that gross margin – the portion of sales remaining after deducting the cost of production – would be 37.5 per cent in the second quarter. That compares with an estimate of 41 per cent.
The company has been running its factories at less than their full capacity, meaning it has to take “underloading” charges that crimp margins. While that headwind will recede as the company is able to increase output later this year, margins will not rebound to where they once were until those plants are upgraded, according to chief financial officer Dave Zinsner.
The factories need new manufacturing technologies that will be expensive to put in place. Once that happens – and Intel is competitive with rivals again – the company hopes to restore profitability to historical levels.
When its factories were home to the industry’s most cutting-edge production and its products were dominant in the server and PC markets, the company regularly posted a margin of more than 60 per cent.
In the first quarter, Intel reported a loss of 4 cents a share, excluding some items, better than the 16-cent loss analysts had predicted. Revenue came in at US$11.7 billion. That beat analysts’ projection of US$11.1 billion, but sales has come down sharply in recent years. Intel had quarterly revenue of more than US$20 billion as recently as 2021.
Client computing, Intel’s PC chip business, generated US$5.8 billion in revenue. That compares with an estimate of US$4.95 billion. Data-center sales were US$3.7 billion, versus an average projection of US$3.51 billion.
First-quarter PC shipments slumped 29 per cent to 56.9 million units, taking them back below the levels of early 2019, according to IDC. That puts the industry on course to come in more than 100 million units shy of its 2021 total.
Intel’s strength in the server processor market once cushioned it from the ebb and flow of the PC business. Server chips, the central components of machines that run the internet and corporate networks, are much more expensive and profitable than those that go into laptops. But in that area, Intel has lost market share to rival Advanced Micro Devices and in-house efforts by major customers such as Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services.
A slowdown in demand in the server and networking business has not hit bottom yet, Intel executives said on Thursday.
Overall, Intel gave enough positive news to raise investors’ spirits. But analysts like Benchmark’s Acree will be waiting for the company to follow through.
“There are still a lot of questions,” he said.
The news is published by EMEA Tribune & SCMP