The Ratings Game: Intel faces a costly and uncertain road back to glory, analyst warns of ‘pain’ ahead


Recent enthusiasm for Intel Corp.’s new chief executive and his ambitious plans to transform the company overlooks the risks and costs associated with the chipmaker’s strategy, an analyst argued Thursday.

Chris Caso of Raymond James downgraded Intel’s stock to underperform from market perform, writing that Intel

faces an expensive and uncertain journey as it tries to recover from a series of missteps and reassert its dominance in the chip landscape.

Intel shares are up 21% since the company announced that Pat Gelsinger, who had been serving as chief executive of VMware Inc.
would be taking over the top spot at Intel. Gelsinger recently laid out plans for Intel to expand its manufacturing capacity and launch a foundry business that would make chips for other companies, but Caso has concerns about the prospects for and cost of success.

Opinion: Intel’s new CEO makes bold moves in manufacturing

“Our underperform rating reflects not just the risk that Intel won’t reach that goal, but also the pain they will likely endure in pursuit of that goal in terms of capex, lost market share, and a shifting landscape in datacenter that will make the industry less dependent on Intel,” he wrote in a note to clients.

Caso worries that demand for personal computers has been “significantly pulled forward” due to the pandemic, which could eventually lead to a reversion to the mean. The problem for Intel is that the mean reversion “may unfortunately occur just as Intel needs to ramp investment.”

Even though Intel could receive some government assistance, Caso expects that the company’s plans to open a foundry business will be expensive. “We therefore believe the fall analyst day could be a negative catalyst, as investors get the bill for that investment,” he wrote. In addition, he’s skeptical that the company has the technology to effectively compete in this business.

“For investors who have a higher confidence in a turnaround than we do, we simply don’t see a reason to make that bet now since any turnaround would be several years away, with many cyclical and Intel-specific issues that could weigh on estimates in the meantime,” Caso wrote.

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He’s partial to other chip names, including Nvidia Corp.
which he upgraded to strong buy from outperform Thursday in a sign of his “conviction in both the short and long term.” Caso also initiated coverage of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

with an outperform rating and $100 price target, arguing that the company has “a durable technical advantage versus Intel.”

AMD shares have lost 7% over the past three months, as Nvidia shares have risen 24% and as Intel shares have increased 14%. The S&P 500

is up 10% in that span, while the PHLX Semiconductor Index

has gained 9%.

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