NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Investors expressed disappointment with chip maker Intel's third quarter results, despite the fact that revenues were in line and earnings actually beat estimates, excluding a one-time charge.
Intel posted third-quarter revenue of $9.96 billion for the third quarter, slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations of $9.92. The company posted earnings of $0.32 per share, but excluding a one-time charge for a legal settlement, earnings came in at $0.34, a penny ahead of estimates. The company's net income was $2 billion, up 5 percent year-over-year.
Nonetheless, the stock is down over 3 percent from its closing price of $23.72 on the results and on the company's fourth-quarter guidance, which fell short of Wall Street expectations. Intel said revenue in the fourth quarter is expected to be between $10.2 billion and $10.8 billion. Analysts currently expect Intel to have fourth-quarter revenue of $10.7 billion.
"Expectations are just really high for companies now," said Jim Fisher, vice president and portfolio manager with Souderton, Penn.-based Univest Wealth Management & Trust, which manages about $1 billion in assets. "It has more to do with psychology than Intel itself."
Said Cody Acree, a managing director at Legg Mason Wood Walker, "What people were looking for or what the market needed was for Intel to do what Motorola did – (deliver) unequivocal strength in guidance. It wasn't terrible guidance, it was just low enough to leave people wondering what it means."
Gross margin for the quarter came in at 59.7 percent. Gross margin, excluding the impact of the company's legal settlement with MicroUnity in a patent infringment case would have been 61.1 percent. The gross margin is a company's sales less the cost of goods sold, as a percentage of sales.
"Overall it looks pretty solid," said Fisher. "Margins are looking good; they indicated they are seeing strong demands across their lines of business. I don't really see anything negative here."
Supply still a problem
One concern was that Intel's ability to meet demand for its chips in the quarter may have affected revenue for the third quarter as well as fourth-quarter guidance. The company first expressed concerns about its ability to manufacture enough chipsets, which are pairs of chips that surround microprocessors, to meet strong U.S. consumer demand for PCs.
Andy Bryant, Intel's executive vice president and CFO, acknowledged on a conference call to investors that capacity will continue to be an issue in the fourth quarter.
"If we'd had more chipsets, we could have shipped more chip sets," he said.
That issue has worried investors and analysts, who believe that computer makers may have turned to rival Advanced Micro Devices when Intel couldn't supply the microprocessors they needed. Intel executives also indicated that computer makers are sitting on $100 million of merchandise that they have been unable to ship -- a problem that may have to do with Intel's decreased chip set supply.
The company said the total number of microprocessor units for the quarter set a record, but the average selling price of each chip was roughly flat. It also said that processors for products like cellular phones and PDAs set a record. One criticism of Intel is that the company has been too focused on making chips for PCs. It already claims an estimated 80 percent of market share for PCs.
The company has lost some market share in the server space to rival Advanced Micro Devices. Though AMD is a far-distant second behind Intel, it has gained share in the profitable server market. Intel fell behind AMD in terms of technological advances for some server processors. But Intel is working to close the gap, analysts say, noting that the company rolled out new chips last week and will unveil new technology next year. Also, Intel announced plans late in the quarter, to use a new cellular processor, codenamed Hermon, in Research in Motion's popular Blackberry hand-held devices.
The company said it expects gross margin for the fourth quarter to be about 63 percent -- a good number, but one that could leave the Street wondering where Intel can go from there.
"How do you do better than that?" asked Acree. "And if next step is down, do you want to own the stock? Their challenge is trying to convince investors and analysts that there is no reason for margins to deteriorate. To some degree they are a victim of their own success."
Intel, as usual, did not issue a per-share earnings forecast, according to Reuters.
Intel's stock has struggled to gain traction this year. The stock's closing price of $23.72 is barely above its Dec. 31 closing price of $23.39.
Fisher's fund owns shares of Intel. Acree does not own shares of Intel and his firm does not have banking ties to the company. Glavin does not own shares of Intel and his firm has no banking ties to the company.