Intel Earnings Call Insights: Startup Cost Cadence, Gross Margin

On Tuesday, Intel Corp (NASDAQ:INTC) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Startup Cost Cadence

Ambrish Srivastava – BB&T: First question is Stacy just on the startup cost cadence given that you’re moderating 14-nm little bit. Typically if I remember correctly it’s a two quarter cadence. How does that play out this time around?

Stacy J. Smith – SVP and CFO: I’m not seeing anything that would cause it to be off of historical patterns. So if you look at what’s happened in odd number years when we start up a new process technology you will see an increase in startup cost that hits pretty significantly in Q1, goes up some more in Q2 and then will start to come down from there. So I’m (not thinking) anything that would cause that to be different from historical patterns.

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Ambrish Srivastava – BB&T: And then my follow-up if on the CapEx Stacy, does that change from what you had given us during the 2012 Analyst Day for 2013?

Stacy J. Smith – SVP and CFO: Yeah, we’re not putting out a forecast yet for 2013 CapEx yet. We’re reducing ’12 capital pretty significantly. 2013 will be a function of the unit growth that we see in ’13 and our expectations for ’14. Right now we want to fight through Q4 where we don’t have a lot of visibility before we lock in on 2013 number.

Gross Margin

Doug Freedman – RBC Capital: Stacy, you gave a number at the Analyst Day regarding full year 2013 gross margin. Do you want to take – can you give us some idea what range you’re looking at now that you are taking the actions you are presently communicating today?

Stacy J. Smith – SVP and CFO: Yeah, we will provide a forecast for 2013 when we get to January, so again similar to the prior question I think it’s premature to provide a forecast at this point revenue or gross margins or CapEx for ’13. We need to fight through Q4 first. There’s a couple of things that I think you can model for ’13 though that are helpful, we’ve just talked about the startup cost. We are starting up 14-nanometer, so historically that’s worth 2 to 3 points of gross margin. In terms of excess capacity charges that we are taking, we are taking a lot in Q4. I think we’ll see that significantly better in Q1 and by then by the time we get to Q2 I don’t expect really any excess capacity charges. So yeah, you will see that play out. And just to size those two things in Q1, I think the excess capacity charges and the startup costs are kind of roughly similar orders of magnitude, so those two things should offset. Beyond that, I will wait until we get to January because there are just many other moving parts for 2013.

Doug Freedman – RBC Capital: So as my follow-up on the revenue side, we did see some movement this quarter, probably not completely expected, PC Client a little bit better than maybe you might have expected when you preannounced. The Data Center, however, though is seeing some ASP movement that caused that revenue to be soft. Can you communicate to us what your outlook is as far as the revenue mix for next quarter and maybe what that might do to our gross margin number?

Stacy J. Smith – SVP and CFO: Yeah. So just to come back to Q3 for a second and then I’ll answer your question on Q4. What we saw specifically in the Client side is that it played roughly as we thought when we did the preannouncement and if you step back from that, what we saw was some growth in consumption, but our customers continuing to manage inventories very lean, and in fact we saw across the worldwide PC supply-chain, we actually saw a reduction in overall inventory levels in Q3, and normally in Q3 you’d see an increase, so you can kind of get a sense of how lean they are managing things. In the Data Center what we saw was strong growth in the Internet IP datacenters, the cloud that was up actually 50% from year ago. It was offset, but we started to see some weakness on enterprise side and that’s where you are seeing a lower ASPs just because of the difference in ASP between those two segments. As we go into Q4 in terms of the overall mix of our business, I’ll direct you to the gross margin recon, there is an issues there with the excess capacity charges. We have some builds on Haswell, really ASP is not impact in gross margin and so you can take from that that we expect it to continue to be kind of similar mix in a roughly benign ASP environment.

A Closer Look: Intel Earnings Cheat Sheet>>