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Intel tumbles as chipmaker falls further behind in AI race

Illustration shows Intel logo

By Samrhitha A

(Reuters) -Intel slumped more than 12% on Friday following a bleak first-quarter revenue outlook, as the chipmaker plays catch-up in the AI race while also dealing with a weak PC market.

While AI is driving a boom in the chip sector, Intel seems to be an exception, analysts said. Semiconductor makers that make chips for the heavy data needs for generative AI were among the biggest winners in the stock market in 2023.

The forecast from Intel, one of the largest suppliers of PC chips, weighed on the rest of the sector. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index slipped 2.7% to its worst day in more than three weeks.

"AI seems like (it is) everywhere except at Intel," said Hans Mosesmann, analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, which has a sell rating on the stock.

The lack of any perceivable AI growth vector that moves any dial "points to another, yes another, transitional year," he added.

Shares of other chipmakers Nvidia, Advanced Micro Devices, Qualcomm and Micron Technology fell between 1.3% and 2.8%.

Intel shed about $24.9 billion in market value, based on Friday's closing price of $43.65. Its shares had soared 90% in 2023.

The chipmaker forecast current-quarter revenue that could fall short of market estimates by more than $2 billion.

"There's a danger Intel is being left behind as chips from the likes of Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices play an increasingly important role in the data-hungry AI industry," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

While Intel isn't yet competitive in the AI-specific chip market, its central processing units (CPUs) are often used in conjunction with Nvidia's AI chips, with a third of Intel's server CPUs now sold as part of AI systems.

Some analysts had positive comments on the stock, with at least 15 brokerages raising price targets. The median price among brokerages is $44, per LSEG data.

"The company still stands to win from its AI bet in the long run. Margins appear solid, meaning that CEO Pat Gelsinger's plan will still be put in motion, albeit at a slower pace," said Thomas Monteiro, senior analyst at Investing.com.

Intel's stock trades at about 28 times its 12-month forward earnings estimates, versus 45.08 for AMD and nearly 30 for Nvidia, according to LSEG data.

(Reporting by Samrhitha Arunasalam in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)