Evercore ISI analyst C.J. Muse cited the company's delays in moving to its next-generation chip manufacturing technology to keep up with rivals such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA). To add to investor uncertainty, Muse noted that Intel's search for a new CEO after the surprise resignation of Brian Krzanich brings some risk to the stock. (See also: Why Intel Stock May Plunge 15% Further.)
Intel: Losing Manufacturing Advantages?
In June, Intel's former CEO stepped down due to an alleged infraction of the firm's nonfraternization policy that stemmed from a consensual relationship. He was replaced on an interim basis by chief financial officer (CFO) Robert Swan.
Evercore wrote in a note to clients Monday that the leadership shakeup comes at a "crucial time" for Intel, which is facing heightened competition as its "manufacturing advantages appear to be flagging." In April, Intel announced that it had delayed volume production under its 10-nanometer chip process until 2019. Meanwhile, AMD plans to ramp up next-gen 7-nanometer chip production by the end of 2018, while rival Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) already has its 7-nanometer processes in production. Smaller nanometer chipmaking technology translates to faster, more efficient products.
“The company’s competitors are not standing still. AMD is in its best position in years, and the AI/compute landscape is changing dramatically with the rise of alternative architectures (NVDA, custom processors, etc.)," wrote the Evercore analyst.
"Given these delays, the incoming CEO will need to address whether Intel intends to remain a technology leader and resolve some of the apparent execution issues, or be comfortable with generating substantial profits while holding back technology improvements until significant yields are achieved," said Muse. That being said, the analyst noted that "given Intel's history, we find it hard to believe that it is willing to step back in such a manner," and that finding the right CEO will help the firm move forward.
Shares of Intel are trading about flat Wednesday morning at $51.78, reflecting a 12.2% gain year-to-date (YTD), compared to the broader S&P 500's 5% return in 2018. Muse's 12-month price target, reduced to $54 from $64, reflects a 4.3% upside from current levels. (See also: Intel to Suffer on ‘Lack of Leadership’.)