Six months has brought a lot of change to
but not to its stock price.
On Thursday, the chipmaker hosts its primary analyst meeting in New York with its stock essentially flat since its last analyst meeting, held in December. At that time, Intel's top executives reassured attendees that its technology processes and product plans were in good shape despite a rocky year.
The company's financial performance so far this year supports that assertion, but its shares still trade around $24. Shares have bounced around in a narrow range this year, moving as high as $25.47 in early March; they currently can be had for $23.74.
"They've managed to work down their inventory and their gross margins are better than expected, so, operationally, there's less concern than there was then," says analyst Lawrence Borgman with Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum. "I'm interested in how they sustain their growth rates and what their new product areas are going to do for them."
Borgman acknowledges the stock's trading range, but points out that Intel is still one of the better performers in the semiconductor space. Shares are up 2% this year, while the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is down 10%.
Seven Intel executives will take the stage at the Equitable Center in New York on Thursday afternoon as part of a four-hour meeting in front of an expected crowd of more than 300. The meeting also will be broadcast to the public over the Internet.
CEO Craig Barrett will lead off the meeting, which will be his last as Intel's chief. He will cede the top executive reins on May 18 to Paul Otellini, the company's president. Barrett will take over as chairman from Intel co-founder Andy Grove.
Otellini will also make a presentation Thursday, as will CFO Andy Bryant.
While Otellini is only days away from occupying the corner office at Intel, his era effectively began at the start of 2005, when the company reorganized in an attempt to replicate its success with its Centrino brand of wireless networking technology. Intel wants to roll out similar groups of technology components for other end markets, such as the desktop computing market and consumer electronics products.
The reorganization's progress will obviously be a focus Thursday, as will Intel's plans to keep growing. "We very much see ourselves as a growth company," says Intel spokesman Robert Manetta.
Part of that growth will come from the help of friends. Intel's largest customer is
, the world's largest computer maker, which recently outlined plans for almost doubling its revenue base to $80 billion.
Intel's performance this year, beating its financial expectations for the fourth quarter and the first quarter, has been a welcome change from 2004, when the company's results in the middle of the year were smacked by an inventory bloat. Intel, a holding in
portfolio, also has faced increased pressure from
Advanced Micro Devices
, its smaller but primary rival in the market for computer microprocessors and flash memory.
Manetta says Intel also will provide more details about the company's dual- and multi-core processor transition. Intel currently has 15 projects under way involving chips with more than one processing core and new details about one of those projects will be made public Thursday.
During Intel's first-quarter conference call last month, Otellini said Intel planned to ship millions of dual-core processors this year. Higher volumes will follow in 2006 when Intel begins mass-producing chips with transistors spaced 65 nanometers apart. Initial chips built at 65 nanometers are slated to debut in the fourth quarter and indications thus far of the transition are positive.
Other topics to be addressed include design wins in laptop computers, the adoption of the WiMax networking standard, and progress with Intel's high-end server chip, Itanium.
Executives are not likely to be specific about business conditions for the current quarter, reserving those comments for a scheduled midquarter update on June 9.
However, Ehrenkrantz's Borgman says he wouldn't be surprised if, at that time, Intel stated that business was proceeding better than expected. "Concern about demand has been enough that it has constrained the stock," he says, adding that the first half of the year for the PC industry is typically weaker than the second half. "It's been difficult to get a real handle on how demand will be this year for that reason."