What: Shares Intel (INTC 1.14%) inched higher by $0.13, or 0.4%, on Friday to close at $30.93 after being hit by a duo of price target reductions, but also a surprising rating upgrade from one Wall Street company following the chipmaker's revised revenue outlook for the first quarter.
So what: Before the market opened on Thursday, Intel announced anticipated first-quarter revenue of $12.8 billion, plus or minus $300 million, compared to a previous forecast of $13.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million. Intel blamed weaker business desktop PC demand in small- and medium-sized businesses due to a weak macroeconomic environment, as well as the strong dollar negatively affecting demand in Europe.
Following the announcement, Deutsche Bank and FBR Capital held their buy-equivalent ratings on Intel, but each lowered their price target on the company by $2, respectively to $38 and $40.
On the flip side, Matthew Ramsay of Canaccord Genuity upgraded Intel to buy from hold following the news. However, he also dropped his price target by $2, to $38 from $40.
According to Ramsay, Intel's fundamentals, the projection for 15%-plus data center growth and 20%-plus Internet of Things growth, and narrower forecast mobile losses, all offer reason to believe Intel's shares are now a buy.
Additionally, Ramsay said he believes Intel's revenue reduction was a smart move as the company's prior forecast would have required some very bullish, and probably unattainable PC growth. With these estimates now "realistic (even beatable)," according to Ramsay, investors can buy Intel shares and fall back on expected data center and Internet of Things growth. Furthermore, Ramsay pegged LTE connectivity via PCs as a potentially underappreciated growth driver for Intel.
Now what: Investors should ask themselves whether Intel really is still buy-worthy after shaving $900 million off its revenue forecast at the midpoint for the first quarter.
On one hand, it's understandable to expect shares to be pressured by this sizable cut in Intel's sales forecast and the ongoing weakness in PC sales. While Intel has diligently invested in next-generation growth, it still generates substantial cash flow from its desktop PC business. On top of this, Intel's investments in research and development, especially in the mobile business where it has been hammered thus far, are making it tough for the company to grow its bottom line.
On the other hand, this is a chipmaker with incredible leverage and pricing power that is perfectly positioned to capitalize on two of the fastest-growing technology trends: the interconnectivity of everything and the growing need to store remotely accessible data. As long as the economy continues to grow, chances are that Intel can hit Canaccord Genuity's lofty growth expectations in these categories.
Personally, I find the timing of the upgrade to be a little odd, but overall I agree with the majority of Wall Street analysts that Intel remains a stock to consider buying rather than selling over the long term. It's hard not to be enamored with its leverage, innovation, cash flow, and dividend. This is a great company to consider socking away in your portfolio for five years or more.