The surprise departure of Intel Corp.'s (INTC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Krzanich will weigh on the company as it struggles with a "lack of leadership," compounding a growing uncertainty regarding the chipmaker's long-term franchise, according to one team of bears on the Street. (See also: Intel’s Chip Lead Is ‘Disappearing’.)

Analysts at Nomura Instinet downgraded shares of the Santa Clara, California-based semiconductor manufacturer from buy to neutral, highlighting weakness due to a new CEO search, alongside existing issues such as a prolonged move to next-generation chip manufacturing technology. Last week, Intel announced the resignation of its former leader due to his alleged infraction of the firm's nonfraternization policy. The CEO violated a policy which barred even consensual relationships with people who reported both directly and indirectly to him. Krzanich was replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Robert Swan. 

In a note to clients Monday, Nomura analyst Romit Shah wrote that the CEO's departure "is disappointing on multiple levels." He lowered his 12-month price target to $55 from $60, reflecting a near 5% upside from Friday close. At $52.50, INTC stock has gained 13.7% year-to-date (YTD) and 52.8% over 12 months, compared to the S&P 500's 3% return and 13.2% growth over the same respective periods. 

Falling Behind AMD?

"Our point is that INTC’s multiple started compressing before Mr. Krzanich’s departure; lack of clear leadership will likely only add to the already growing uncertainty about Intel’s long-term outlook,” wrote Shah. During Intel's most recent quarterly earnings call, the company announced a delay in the production of its 10-nanometer chip to next year, making it more vulnerable to a move to next-gen 7 nanometer chip production by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) slated for later this year. 

The analyst expects Intel to promote internal product manager and engineer Dr. Venkata (Murthy) M. Renduchintala to the helm, yet doubts that the move will "immediately convince investors that Intel can overcome its challenges." Instead, Nomura would like to see the chipmaker hire "an external candidate such as Hock Tan at Broadcom Ltd. (AVGO) or Sanjay Jha from GlobalFoundries that have a proven track record of driving shareholder value. (See also: Intel a ‘Top Pick’ Despite Poor Sentiment: Citi.)