Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How Hard Will Weak PC Sales Hit Intel?

intel380The reports by market research firms Gartner and IDC earlier this week showing what appears to have been one of the worst year-on-year contractions in the personal computer market since records have been kept is having repercussions up and down the supply chain.

As it happens, the report came a week before chipmaker Intel is due to report quarterly earnings on April 16. In a research note today, Stacy Rasgon of Sanford Bernstein sized up its prospects for the quarter and the rest of the year.

There’s a chance that the actual on-the-ground results may yet be worse than what the research firms detected. Relying on data from Taiwanese notebook manufacturers including Compal, Quanta and Wistron, sales were down in the first quarter by more than 18 percent, worse than the 11 percent to 13 percent drop reported by Gartner and IDC.

So what does that mean for Intel, the world’s largest supplier of computer chips and long considered an important bellwether of the overall tech economy? Nothing good, Rasgon argues. He expects Intel to report revenue of $12.43 billion, nearly $200 million below the consensus expectation of $12.6 billion. He expects earnings on a per-share basis to be 41 cents.

“Given the recent atrocious PC numbers, we believe investors may not be hugely surprised by weak outlook at this point (at least, they certainly shouldn’t be now),” he wrote.

Other key questions for Intel: Who will be the next CEO? And will Intel say anything about it on the conference call after earnings are announced? If you haven’t been keeping track, here’s a good rundown on who’s likely to be in the race, both internal and external. (Here’s a hint: It’s going to be an internal contender; Intel has never hired an outside CEO.)

“It is rapidly approaching high time for the company to provide color on a replacement,” Rasgon wrote. “While it appears they are actively vetting both internal and external candidates, we do not expect significant strategic changes regardless of the eventual choice as they have started the ball rolling on several initiatives that would be difficult to stop. … We would hope (but do not necessarily expect) that the company could provide additional information on the succession plan.”

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”