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Do Applied Materials, Inc. Results Mean Good Things for Intel Corporation?

By Ashraf Eassa - May 23, 2016 at 7:00PM

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Probably not.

An Intel solid state drive aimed at enterprise applications. Image source: Intel. 

Semiconductor equipment supplier Applied Materials (AMAT -5.18%) recently reported better-than-expected results and stronger-than-expected forward guidance .These results, according to Seeking Alpha contributor Dana Blankenhorn, mean that microprocessor giant Intel (INTC -2.86%) -- a fairly large customer of Applied Materials -- "is a buy."

I don't think that this is necessarily the case. Here's why.

What drove Applied Materials' results?

One key driver of the better-than-expected results was a big spike in display manufacturing equipment orders. According to management, the average yearly orders for display manufacturing equipment were $750 million. During the first half of this year alone, those orders have come in at $883 million (with new orders surging from $183 million in the first quarter to $700 million in the most recent quarter).

Intel doesn't manufacture or sell displays, so strength here says nothing about Intel's performance one way or another.

Applied also reported a large surge in Silicon Systems orders, which includes equipment used to build logic semiconductors, DRAM, and NAND flash memory. New orders were up from $1.275 billion last quarter to $1.966 billion in the most recent quarter.

By far the largest driver of this surge were orders for NAND flash equipment, growing from around $281 million to $963.34 million. This ramp is apparently due to an acceleration in the ramp of 3D NAND capacity industrywide.

Intel previously signaled that it will be converting an old logic fab in Dalian, China, to produce 3D NAND. I don't doubt that Intel's spending to build out 3D NAND capacity is helping Applied Materials' results, but Intel buying equipment for memory as it has already told investors that it was going to isn't exactly a reason to rush out to buy Intel stock.

Applied also says that in the second half of the year, it should benefit from "robust levels of foundry investment in the second half of the year." I would think this is more of an indication of the significant leading-edge technology buildout from the likes of TSMC (TSM -5.81%) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF), as well as the older technology buildout from less advanced foundries such as SMIC (SMI) and UMC (UMC -3.25%)than a surge in Intel-related orders.

At any rate, Intel's capital expenditure plans are already publicly known, so once again, Applied Materials seeing orders from Intel isn't really a reason to buy Intel stock.

Applied Materials' results don't tell us much about Intel

At the end of the day, there's not a whole lot that we can infer about Intel's future financial performance from Applied Materials' results. The major chipmakers generally provide investors with their capital expenditure plans, and those plans merely tell investors what sort of capacity is being built out in a given year.

This capacity buildout could conceivably be used to get a read on the future demand that management expects, but a company could very well build out a certain level of capacity and ultimately have it go underutilized if end demand doesn't materialize.

However, even trying to read the tea leaves from capital expenditure plans can be unreliable, particularly if companies plan a high level of equipment reuse from one technology generation to another.

Long story short, Applied Materials' results shouldn't change how investors think about Intel's prospects in the near term.


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Stocks Mentioned

Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
$36.34 (-2.86%) $-1.07
Applied Materials, Inc. Stock Quote
Applied Materials, Inc.
$86.27 (-5.18%) $-4.71
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited Stock Quote
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited
$77.00 (-5.81%) $-4.75
United Microelectronics Corporation Stock Quote
United Microelectronics Corporation
$6.55 (-3.25%) $0.22
Springs Global, Inc. Stock Quote
Springs Global, Inc.

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