Advanced Micro Devices (AMD -0.19%) announced on Oct. 8 that Rory Read would be stepping down as CEO and that Lisa Su would be taking his place.
While AMD spent a great deal of time trying to convince investors that this was "planned," the timing of this seems incredibly abrupt. Why would the company announce this "leadership transition" just before AMD's Oct. 16 earnings report?
It also doesn't help that Bright Side of News reported a few days ago that AMD will "enter another round of restructuring this month."
With that in mind, I'd like to share my views on what to expect and what to look for when AMD reports its earnings results on Oct. 16.
Is a big earnings miss likely? Probably not for the third quarter
Well-respected industry analyst Pat Moorhead pointed out via his Twitter feed that if AMD had a bad third quarter, it would have preannounced said poor results.
I agree, and as a result I don't actually expect AMD to report bad third quarter numbers. What I do think is possible is AMD will report guidance for its fourth quarter that will come in below sell-side expectations. In this case, AMD wouldn't warn since it hadn't publicly issued any numbers to miss.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying that this is going to be the case, but I'm saying that if AMD is going to disappoint, it's much more likely to be in the fourth quarter guidance than in the third quarter results.
How will AMD's PC processor and stand-alone graphics businesses fare?
From a business trend perspective, I'm not expecting anything too surprising on the PC processor front. It is well known that AMD's competitive positioning in PC processors is not particularly good, so the market-share-loss story that has been in play over the last several quarters is likely to continue.
The wildcard here seems to be the company's stand-alone graphics segment. On AMD's third quarter call, former CEO Rory Read reported the company saw "strong growth" in its notebook GPU segment, but that AMD expected to "increase GPU shipments during [the third] quarter." He also expressed confidence in AMD's ability to "drive [GPU market share] gains throughout the coming quarters."
I think that if AMD ends up disappointing, any "unexpected weakness" would likely show up in its graphics segment rather than in its PC processor segment, particularly in light of rival NVIDIA's (NVDA 1.25%) very competitive "Maxwell" line of graphics chips.
Foolish bottom line
I have to agree with the general sentiment regarding AMD's abrupt succession plan; it doesn't exactly instill confidence that the company would choose now to do it. AMD must have known that announcing this transition before a quarterly report would likely cause investors to, at the very least, become uneasy.
AMD, fully cognizant of this fact, went ahead and did so anyway.
While the full details of what's going on with AMD will be revealed on Oct. 16, AMD investors should pay close attention to what rival Intel has to say on its Oct. 14 earnings call. In particular, Intel's call will give investors a good handle on how the PC market is faring overall.
Finally, given that the PC chip market is essentially a duopoly, listen closely to what Intel's views are on the growth rate of the PC market as a whole and compare that to the growth numbers that Intel gives for its own PC chip sales. This will help investors get a better picture of how market share between the two companies is shifting.