At its Developer Forum yesterday, INTC announced that it is opening its cutting-edge fabs to manufacture chips that employ ARMH designs created by third parties. So, as at least part of its business, INTC intends to become a foundry like TSMC.
(An aside: despite its glitzy style, it’s much harder to find information about the move on INTC’s website than on ARMH’s. I don’t know whether this has any significance, but it’s the sort of odd fact that rattles around in a security analyst’s head until an answer can be found. Is it me? Is INTC more interested in sizzle than steak? Is INTC’s IR effort still mired in the mindset of the former regime?…)
I’m not sure what the total significance of this move is, but at the very least:
–TSMC, the premier foundry, a Taiwanese company, trades at about a 17x price earnings multiple. INTC now trades at about the same PE, although it has typically traded at a lower rating than TSMC in the past. In contrast, ARMH trades at about 70x, a PE that I think must be unsustainably high, even though ARMH has managed to do so for years.
For my money, INTC’s fabs are better than TSMC’s. Making loads of ARM chips for others will likely not lower INTC’s pe ratio. Arguably, as the foundry business expands, INTC’s pe will rise.
–in every generation, the size of chips shrinks while the cost of a next generation fab rises. As a result, the amount of output that a fab must have to be able to operate profitably increases, while the penalty for having too little output goes up as well.
The ARMH partnership signals, I think, that INTC believes that to maintain its manufacturing edge, it must accept manufacturing orders from outside parties.