Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Amid PC Sales Slide, All Eyes on Intel’s Quarterly Results

When the chipmaker Intel reports its quarterly results today after markets close in New York, no one is expecting especially good news, nor much of a positive outlook.

Intel shares have traded lower since last Thursday, when the market research firms IDC and Gartner said they had tracked one of the largest year-on-year declines in sales of personal computers since records have been kept. Intel is the largest supplier of microprocessors to PC manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple, and it’s hard to see how much good news it can possibly bring to the table today.

Analysts are expecting Intel to report a profit of 41 cents per share on sales of $12.6 billion, and missing either would be seen as more or less proving that the PC market is in a state of permanent decline. So would a weak outlook for the current quarter, for which analysts currently expect earnings of 40 cents on $12.9 billion in sales.

There are other aspects to Intel’s business. It has a healthy data center business selling chips for use in servers, but out of more than $53 billion in sales last year, $34 billion, or more than 61 percent, was in its “client,” or PC, unit, while the data center group accounted for about $10.7 billion.

In the past, Intel executives have quarreled with the analyst firms, and said it was seeing more promising conditions in emerging markets. Indeed, in prior years there has been a disconnect between the dour pronouncements of Gartner and IDC and the peppier market conditions that Intel would later describe in its financial results in places like Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. In more recent quarters, the differences between their views have narrowed.

Aside from PCs, Intel has some new ideas that it hopes will kick its data center business into a higher gear. And it certainly has higher hopes about selling more chips for use in phones and tablets, but as yet they’re only hopes. It also plans to launch a TV product later this year.

Aside from the numbers, expect some questions — and maybe even some answers, but probably nothing conclusive yet — about the search for a replacement for CEO Paul Otellini. The smart money says the choice will be an internal one (here’s a rundown on the contenders), though there’s a slim chance that Intel’s board might be in the mood to surprise everyone and name an outsider. But don’t bet any money you can’t afford to lose on that.

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