Weak PC Market Drives Intel Guidance Much Lower

Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) has been one of the top Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks of the past year or more. In fact, it was the best-performing Dow stock of 2014. Now the expectations have caught up with it: Intel has just lowered guidance for the quarter.

Intel announced on Thursday that its first-quarter revenue is expected to be under its prior expectations. The company’s old guidance of $13.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million, is now being projected to be $12.8 billion with a plus or minus $300 million factor. While some weakness has been expected, the comparisons are not good at all.

If you want to compare this in real-world terms, here goes. The new range is $12.5 billion to $13.1 billion, versus a prior implied range of $13.2 billion to $14.2 billion. This also takes the mid-point of the range down roughly $900 million, but with a more narrow focus of $300 million in wiggle room versus $500 million.

Intel said in its outlook:

The change in revenue outlook is a result of weaker than expected demand for business desktop PCs and lower than expected inventory levels across the PC supply chain. The company believes the changes to demand and inventory patterns are caused by lower than expected Windows XP refresh in small and medium business and increasingly challenging macroeconomic and currency conditions, particularly in Europe.

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The processor giant maintained that its data center business is meeting expectations.

The company is forecasting the mid-point of the gross margin range to remain at 60%, plus or minus a couple of percentage points. The prior first-quarter guidance was 60%, plus or minus a couple of percentage points as well. Still, Intel said that the new guidance is based on lower PC unit volume being offset by higher platform average selling prices.

Intel went on further to say that expectations for R&D and MG&A spending and depreciation in the first quarter remain unchanged. Unfortunately, Intel also said:

All other expectations have been withdrawn and will be updated with the company’s first-quarter earnings report on April 14… Intel’s updated Business Outlook does not include the potential impact of any business combinations, asset acquisitions, divestitures, strategic investments and other significant transactions that may be completed after March 12.

Shares of Intel closed up Wednesday 2% at $32.33. In early trading Thursday, shares were actually down 3.9% at $31.06. The stock has (or had) a consensus analyst price target of $37.38 prior to Thursday’s warnings, as well as a 52-week trading range of $24.40 to $37.90.

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