With big capital commitments for new foundries coming down the pike, Intel (INTC) is likely looking to free up resources by spinning off Mobileye.
The chip giant said Tuesday it would float Mobileye onto public markets. Industry experts peg the valuation on Mobileye north of $50 billion given its lead in autonomous driving technology and key deals inked with the likes of Ford and Geely. Mobileye also has attractive financials (the company has hauled in north of $442 million in operating income over the trailing-12 months, Wells Fargo notes) that support a high valuation, pros say.
“Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye has been a great success. Mobileye has achieved record revenue year-over-year with 2021 gains expected to be more than 40% higher than 2020, highlighting the powerful benefits to both companies of our ongoing partnership,” said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in a statement.
For the turnaround-focused Gelsinger, the spinoff makes sense for a few reasons.
First, Gelsinger moved quickly upon his return to Intel this year to commit the company to making chips for other entities. As part of that ambition, Intel is investing $20 billion to build new factories in Arizona.
The cash from Mobileye would be helpful in seeing those projects through, and others Gelsinger is eyeing on the foundry front.
Moreover, it would be a nice cash infusion should Gelsinger opt to acquire capacity instead of going full bore with internal build-outs.
The WSJ reported several months back that Intel was considering a purchase of chipmaker GlobalFoundries for $30 billion. GlobalFoundries is among the biggest specialist players in the chip industry. The company was spun out of Advanced Micro Devices in 2008. It still counts AMD as a key customer, making any potential purchase by Intel (a rival to AMD) tricky.
Gelsinger declined to comment on the speculation around GlobalFoundries in an interview with Yahoo Finance earlier this year. But, he acknowledged at the time one can’t be a “little player” in the foundry business.
One way to not be little is to use money from the Mobileye spinoff and bulk up.
Meantime, the fact is Mobileye and autonomous cars isn’t a strategy Gelsinger signed off on. Mobileye was purchased by former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in 2017 for $15.3 billion. Kraznich’s predecessor Bob Swan bought mapping technology outfit Moovit in 2017 for $900 million, which was folded into Mobileye.
Gelsinger’s playbook — gleaned from numerous chats with him throughout the year — is hyperfocus and is on restoring the history of Intel, which is making semiconductors.
And Wall Street appears to be on board with Intel saying goodbye to an operations role in Mobileye.
“We continue to believe that Mobileye is one of the more dynamic pieces of Intel's portfolio and would highlight that the company is set for the deployment of fully driverless delivery starting in 2023 in a partnership with Udelv. In addition to unlocking Intel shareholder value, we believe IPO proceeds can assist with what looks likely to be a capital intensive 2023 rollout,” said Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers in a research note to clients.