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Intel's Most Important Decision in a Decade: Investor Clarity Tomorrow?

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 15, 2013 at 7:30PM

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Intel reports earnings tomorrow after the close. Investors should should instead focus on any clarity about who will be the chip giant's next CEO.

As if Intel (INTC 3.17%) didn't already take a beating last week after first-quarter PC shipments plunged, investors should brace themselves for the distinct possibility of more downside this week.

Intel is set to report tomorrow after the close. The Street is expecting Chipzilla to put up about $12.6 billion in sales, which should translate into earnings per share of $0.40. Intel's new Haswell chips are due out in a matter of months, although they may not be enough to spur meaningful PC demand.

There have also been recent concerns about Intel's factory utilization. The current levels of approximately 60% are well below normal, according to Tirias Research analyst Jim McGregor. That's why the potential expansion of Intel's foundry business could be an important strategic opportunity, since those multibillion-dollar factories aren't going to pay for themselves by sitting idle.

Investor expectations are likely already muted following the PC figures, and focus may shift to CEO succession; Paul Otellini's planned retirement is coming up next month. The company had said it would look at both external and internal candidates, and investors will be looking for some clarity on who may lead the company next.

While internal candidates will know the highly technical business better, some fresh external blood could give Intel a new perspective on how to tap mobile growth. Some analysts consider the CEO decision Intel's most important in a decade.

There's been plenty of speculation. Internal execs Brian Krzanich and David Perlmutter may have a shot. External names may include Sanjay Jha, who was CEO of Motorola Mobility before Google acquired the smartphone maker. Jha also has extensive experience at mobile chip giant Qualcomm, who in many ways has become the Intel of mobile.

There's even been talk that ARM Holdings CEO Warren East could be considered. He announced his own retirement from the British chip designer last month, effective July, after 12 years as CEO. East has led ARM as the company's architecture chip designs have become ubiquitous in mobile devices; licensee Qualcomm owns roughly half of the smartphone processor market.

PCs still account for 63% of revenue, but Microsoft Windows 8 is killing the PC market. Six months after the platform's launch, it's clear that the radically new interface isn't faring well with the average consumer. Intel's next CEO needs to have expertise beyond the PC market. Specifically, the candidate should be able to grow the data center segment as well as explore foundry and mobile businesses.

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Stocks Mentioned

Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
INTC
$43.54 (3.17%) $1.34
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
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Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
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$2,165.15 (2.32%) $49.05
ARM Holdings plc Stock Quote
ARM Holdings plc
ARMH
QUALCOMM Incorporated Stock Quote
QUALCOMM Incorporated
QCOM
$135.38 (3.16%) $4.15

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