Shares of Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker Intel Corp. (INTC) are trading up about 3.3% at $50.70 on Tuesday morning following a bullish note from a team of analysts who expect the stock to outperform the market on a booming enterprise segment.
On Tuesday, analysts at Citi Research reiterated their buy rating on INTC stock and made it a "top pick" as they foresee the firm posting profits well above expectations in 2018. (See also: Don’t Overreact to Higher Interest Rates: JPMorgan.)
"We believe Intel is the only semiconductor stock with both poor sentiment and substantial upside to consensus estimates. As a result, we are moving Intel from #3 to #1 in our company rankings,” wrote Citi's Christopher Danely in a note to clients entitled "Intel—More Conviction on Recent Upgrade to Buy, Moving to Top Pick." He dubbed INTC shares the "Micron Technology Inc. (MU) of 2018." Over the course of 2017, the Boise, Idaho-based semiconductor play gained nearly 90%.
Very Low Sentiment, Significant Upside
Danely highlighted a recovery in the enterprise market, which accounts for over half of Intel sales and has declined every year for the past three years. He noted that other semiconductor manufacturers, including Intel rival NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) and Lenovo all pointed to a strong corporate business environment.
"The enterprise end market drove upside to Intel in 4Q17 and we believe it will be sustainable in 2018 driven by the improving economy and increased spending from tax reform," stated Danely.
The analyst's $58 price target implies a 14.4% upside in INTC shares over the next 12 months. The Citi analyst expects Intel will post 2018 earnings per share (EPS) of $3.57, compared to the consensus estimate of $3.55 EPS. In the first quarter, Danely expects Intel to post EPS 10% higher than the average Wall Street estimate of $0.71.
He sees a combination of "very low" sentiment and significant upside to the consensus as mirroring what happened to Micron in 2017, which secured the largest positive surprise for investors in its space last year. (See also: 5 Stocks to Outperform in 2018’s Volatile Market.)