Yesterday INTC issued a press release revising downward the 1Q15 guidance it gave when announcing 4Q14 results on January 15th.
The company now expects 1Q15 revenue to be $12.8 billion vs $13.7 billion previously–a drop of about 6%.
What does this mean?
–My impression is that, like most publicly traded companies, INTC provides guidance that gives itself a margin of safety against having a negative surprise. That is, the guidance is a reasonable figure, given the data at hand, but a little on the low side. So the downward revision means INTC has used up all its wiggle room and then some.
–The reporting convention is to list the factors behind the revision in the order of their importance, with the most significant first. For INTC, these factors are:
—–weaker demand for business desktops, and
—–a resulting runoff in the number of INTC chips that wholesalers’ are willing to keep in inventory. This is magnifying the effect of the retail shortfall on INTC’s sales. (Think: instead of selling 10 chips and reordering 10, the wholesaler has sold, say, 9 and reordered 8.)
–The reasons behind weaker sales–again, most important first–are:
—-slowdown in the rate at which small and medium-sized businesses are replacing their outmoded Windows XP machines
—-economic weakness, especially in Europe
—-currency weakness, especially in Europe.
Operating margins remain unaffected, despite the revenue drop. That’s because higher selling prices are offsetting the negative effect of lower unit volumes (which would seem to imply that unit volumes are off by 6%).
My guess would be that sales to end users are off by 4% vs. forecast and the other 2% is from reduction in wholesale inventories. I suspect that these are sales deferred rather than lost, so I’m not too concerned. This probably does signal, however, that the vast majority of the current corporate upgrade cycle is over.
I’m more interested in currency/volume effects in the EU. It’s less to figure out what’s happening with INTC than to to get advance warning about how other firms with European exposure may fare as they report results.
I’m guessing, based on their order in the INTC press release, that businesses clinging to XP are 60% of INTC’s problem, 40% is Europe.
If so, Europe accounts for a 2.5% falloff in sales. Let’s assume that the decline of the euro accounts for half of this, or 1.25% of $13.7 billion, which equals $170 million. The euro has fallen by 8% since January 15th. $170 billion/.08 = $2.1 billion, implying that European end users now make up only about 15% of INTC’s sales.
This strikes me as low, although in a quick look through the company’s 2013 10-K (the 2014 one isn’t out yet) the geographical breakout of operations that I found listed the location of INTC’s computer-building customers, not where the end users are.
Two conclusions, then:
more currency losses than expected for multinationals with European exposure in 1Q15, and
weaker than expected (I think) economic performance in Europe, as well. Not a disaster, but worse than companies thought two months ago.