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Intel tops 2Q forecasts, sees strong second half

    Intel slipped past analysts' estimates in its second quarter Tuesday, earning $3.5 billion, or 50 cents a share, on sales of $8.3 billion.

    First Call Corp. consensus pegged the world's largest chipmaker for a profit of 49 cents a share, on a post-split basis.

    On a conference call with analysts, Intel officials said they are bullish on the second half. Andy Bryant, Intel's financial chief, said third quarter revenue will be from second quarter levels.

    "We expect demand to remain strong," said Bryant. "Product supply is improving, but is still tight."

    The second half outlook is also good, officials said. Bryant said strong PC and server demand as well as networking growth will fuel results.

    Ahead of the earnings report, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) shares closed off 3 5/16 to 143.

    The $8.3 billion in sales was well above most analysts' estimates and represents a 23 percent jump from the year-ago quarter when it pocketed $1.75 billion, or 26 cents a share, on sales of $6.75 billion.

    "We are very pleased with our record quarterly results in what is normally a seasonally slow quarter," said CEO Craig Barrett in a prepared release. "Strong worldwide PC and server demand and better than expected manufacturing performance helped lead the company to greater than 20 percent revenue growth versus the second quarter of last year. We saw strong demand in all business groups, especially for microprocessors, flash memory and networking silicon."

    Including acquisition-related charges, Intel earned $3.1 billion, or 45 cents a share, in the quarter.

    Company officials said microprocessor unit shipments in the quarter set a new record while chipset units and motherboard units were down from the first quarter. Average selling prices were flat with the first quarter.

    Gross profit margins slipped to 60.4 percent in the quarter, down from 62.6 percent in the first quarter.

    Excluding the $200 million charge it absorbed in the quarter to replace defective motherboards, gross margins were 62.9 percent. Officials said second half profit margins will be in the 63 percent to 64 percent range.

    "Looking forward, we expect to see strong demand continue into the second half," Barrett said in the release. "Our recent investments in 0.18-micron process technology will allow us to substantially increase second half supply to help us meet this anticipated strong demand."

    Last quarter, Intel earned $2.73 billion, or 78 cents a share, on sales of $8 billion.

    Its shares moved up to a 52-week high of 147 1/2 earlier this month after falling to a low of 62 3/4 last July.

    Thirty-one of the 34 analysts following the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

    First Call Corp. consensus expects the Santa Clara, Calif. company to earn $3.36 a share in the fiscal year.