Intel says it will recover share from AMD but some are skeptical

(Reuters) – Microprocessor giant Intel Corp (INTC.O) has stumbled badly at a time when smaller rival AMD and others are picking up speed. It says it will regain its balance this year, but analysts aren’t so sure.

The company shocked the market on Thursday with a revenue outlook that was behind Wall Street estimates by about $3 billion. The weakness of the global economy only makes Intel’s challenges more difficult.

Intel is still the three hundred pound gorilla in the market of microprocessors, called central processing units (CPUs), the brains of computers, and it says it has passed through the worst of a revamp under a new chief executive.

“We stumbled, right? We lost share; we lost momentum. We think that stabilizes this year,” Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger told investors on a late Thursday conference call.

IDC analyst Shane Rau was not convinced.

“I don’t think Intel is in a position yet to start recovering share,” he said.

Intel still dominates the markets for PC and server processing chips, with a market share greater than 70%, tech research firm IDC calculated. But that is down from more than 90% in 2017.

“Someone going from 1% to 13% is significant. It tells you that now there’s a viable second competitor in the server processor market, who has momentum and is gaining momentum,” said Rau.

That competitor is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O) which under the leadership of Chief Executive Lisa Su has come back from the brink of bankruptcy and has been taking business away from Intel quarter after quarter.

A few years ago, there was a yawning gap between Intel and AMD’s market valuations but both companies are now valued between $120 billion and $125 billion.

Shares of chipmakers were set to drop in Friday trading with Intel leading the decline, down 9% in premarket activity, while AMD was off 2.3%.

“We have not seen revenues at this level since 2010; gross margins have not been here since 1986 – when we were in elementary school,” wrote analysts at Bernstein research.

Rau said Intel and AMD would both face macroeconomic headwinds and challenges related to rolling out their newest chips, but that Intel also had the bigger issue of a chip glut to deal with.

Customers of processors cannot launch products if new chip designs are late, and Intel has stumbled on delivering its latest data-center chip, code named Sapphire Rapids.

“Sapphire Rapids was about two years late. And so because of that, AMD has leapfrogged them,” said Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.

Worse for Intel, the benchmarks published by the two companies show that AMD’s latest server chip outperforms Sapphire Rapids on “general purpose workloads”, according to Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon.

Intel has rising competition, too, as graphics chip maker Nvidia branches into central processors and former processor customers, including Apple and Amazon, design their own chips.

Gelsinger said that 2023 would be a year of stabilizing then re-acceleration. Intel had taken some painful steps and now needed to execute on a good plan, he said. Some agree.

“Intel’s turnaround is taking some time, exacerbated by the economy, but I believe its plan is working,” said Glenn O’Donnell, analyst at Forrester Research. “It is delivering on new products and its manufacturing is ramping up with agreements from other chipmakers to use Intel’s manufacturing capacity.”

Investors, meanwhile, are looking for the next piece of evidence: AMD will report its results on Tuesday.

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