Intel Tells Analysts Factories Are Busy

Intel Corp. (INTC), the world's largest chip maker, kicked off its annual Wall Street roadshow Thursday by saying its factories are busy and it expects to grow sales by 10 percent or more in 2005.

"Our factories are relatively fully loaded right now," said Chief Executive Craig Barrett, speaking on CNBC before the company's New York analysts' meeting. "We're not seeing any inventory build-up with our main customers."

Intel also announced a tie-up with Sprint Corp. (FON) on a long-range wireless technology called WiMax (search) that Intel has computer microprocessors, posted a stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit and has grown faster than the PC industry in recent years by expanding beyond those PC core chips.

Presentation materials made available at the company's spring analysts' meeting said the company would call for "a 3rd straight year of double-digit growth" during a presentation by Intel President Paul Otellini at the event.

Executives have long pointed to Intel's Centrino (search) brand of notebook computer chips — which include a bundle of three chips, including one for connecting to the Internet without wires — as a model for future product development.

At the meeting with analysts Thursday, seven top Intel executives are scheduled to give updates on product development and strategy and to give growth expectations for 2005.

The comments of Chief Executive Craig Barrett and Otellini will be closely watched by investors, as will a financial update from Chief Financial Officer Andy Bryant. Otellini is scheduled to be named CEO later this month, with Barrett taking over as chairman.

Robert Baker, the head of Intel's manufacturing operations, is expected to outline Intel's strategy of staying a generation ahead of other chip makers in its factory network, which reaches from Ireland to the Philippines. Other speakers include the heads of Intel's mobility and corporate groups, as well as the head of sales.

The meeting with analysts gives the Santa Clara, Calif., company a platform to discuss the company's product road map and designs for expanding beyond its traditional business of PC microprocessors.

Lurking in the shadows, however, are serious competitive threats, and ones that have kept the company's stock in check. In afternoon trade, Intel shares rose 5 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $24.16 on Nasdaq, no higher than the shares were at this time last year.

The most widely discussed threat comes from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), a much smaller chip maker that analysts say has gained a slight technological edge over Intel on some products.

Beyond Advanced Micro, however, Intel has to contend increasingly with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (search) , the world's second-largest chip maker, which has designs on the fast-growing consumer electronics space, making televisions, music players, and the digital memory chips used in phones and cameras.

Another hot market, chips for multimedia cell phones, has been largely closed off to Intel. Texas Instruments Inc. , the largest cell phone chip maker and the world's No. 3 chip maker, has boxed Intel out of the market, and that's not likely to change any time soon, said Richard Kerslake, the general manager of TI's OMAP cell phone processor business.

"Anyone who's new to that market, I say good luck," he said in a recent interview, when asked about Intel's chances in cell phones. "You have some significant challenges to face."