Citi makes Intel a ‘top pick’ because of chipmaker’s booming corporate sales

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Attendees view the Acer Switch 7 laptop computer powered by the Intel Corp. i7 processor at the company’s booth during the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Intel shares will rise due to its strong chip sales to companies, according to one Wall Street firm.

Citi Research reiterated its buy rating for Intel shares and made it a “top pick,” predicting the company will report profits above expectations this year.

The chipmaker’s shares are up 1.8 percent Tuesday after the report.

“We believe Intel is the only semiconductor stock with both poor sentiment and substantial upside to Consensus estimates. As a result, we are moving Intel from #3 to #1 in our company rankings,” analyst Christopher Danely wrote in a note to clients Tuesday titled “Intel – More Conviction on Recent Upgrade to Buy, Moving to Top Pick.”

Danely reiterated his $58 price target for Intel shares, representing 18 percent upside to Monday’s close.

The analyst noted Nvidia, Cisco and Lenovo all said the corporate business environment is strong. He predicts the company will report 2018 earnings per share of $3.57 versus the Wall Street consensus of $3.55. Danely also said his first-quarter EPS estimate for Intel is 10 percent above the average analyst estimate.

“We believe the recovery in the enterprise end market will drive Consensus estimates higher on Intel as the enterprise end market is over 50% of Intel sales and has declined every year for the past three years,” he wrote. “The enterprise end market drove upside to Intel in 4Q17 and we believe it will be sustainable in 2018 driven by the improving economy and increased spending from tax reform.”

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this story.

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