Chipmaker Intel on Thursday cut its full-year revenue forecast and missed analysts' estimates for first-quarter sales for the data centre business that has driven growth as PC sales declined in recent years, sending its shares down as much as 7.5 percent.
Intel said China's economy was consuming fewer microchips than it had expected, adding to concerns that an industry wide slowdown could persist until the end of 2019. Intel's outlook follows a similar warning earlier this week from chipmaker Texas Instruments, whose broad lineup of products makes it a proxy for the industry chip industry.
Intel marginally beat Wall Street targets for revenue and profit in the fiscal first quarter, but sales in the data centre group unit fell 6.3% to US$4.9 billion, hit by weakness in China as customers worked through stockpiles of chips purchased last year. Analysts had expected revenue of US$5.1 billion, according to financial and data analytics firm FactSet.
"The data centre rebound the company was banking on for back-half (of 2019) improvements doesn't look like it's going to happen," said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Intel's chief executive, Bob Swan, said in an interview that customers in China had "absolutely" bought extra data centre chips last year due to fears of a tariff or supply constraints owing to the US-China trade dispute.
"The belief at the time was that they were ordering well ahead of what their real needs were, but the expectation was that they would consume that over the course of Q4 and Q1," Swan said. "But today we think ... it's not being consumed quite at that level; there's going to be another quarter."
While Intel highlighted problems in China, "there was weakness, in terms of orders, across almost every single end-market for them," said Christopher Rolland, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group. "It's really across the board."
The chipmaker cut its 2019 revenue forecast to US$69 billion, from the US$71.5 billion it told investors to expect when it last reported earnings in January.
A year-long US-China trade war and weakening smartphone sales have taken a toll on the global semiconductor industry. Investors are banking on the launch of 5G telecom networks and demand for chips used in self-driving vehicles to reignite growth. Swan said a 30 percent boost in so-called programmable chips that go into 5G networking equipment showed early gains for Intel.
Shares of rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose 1.5 percent in extended trade after Intel's report, while graphics chipmaker Nvidia fell 2.5 percent. Intel also suffered a decline in its memory chip business, affected by the same pricing declines that have hurt rivals such as Samsung Electronics and Micron.
Intel's business unit that sells modem chips to connect Apple's iPhones to wireless data networks was a growth spot, despite Intel's announcement last week that it would exit the market for 5G modem chips. That news came the same day that Apple resolved a long-standing dispute with Qualcomm and the companies signed a chip supply agreement.
Swan said Intel expects to continue shipping 4G modems, though, as is customary for Intel, he did not mention Apple by name.
"Our expectation is we will continue to deliver on the 4G modem throughout the course of this year, including the second iteration of that product coming in the fall back-to-school season," Swan said.
The chipmaker estimated profit of 89 cents per share on revenue of US$15.6 billion for its second quarter that ends in June, compared with analysts' expectation of US$1.01 per share on US$16.85 billion.
For the first quarter, net income fell to US$3.97 billion, or 87 cents per share, from US$4.45 billion, or 93 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company earned 89 cents per share, beating analysts' estimate of 87 cents.
Revenue in Intel's client computing business, which caters to PC makers and still the biggest contributor to sales, rose 4.45 percent to US$8.59 billion, beating FactSet estimates of US$8.38 billion.
Intel shares were trading down 7.5 percent at US$57.61 after the bell.
(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)