Amidst a bevy of bad news in the PC market, Intel took two corrective steps this week, aggressively slashing prices on chips on Monday and announcing Wednesday that it would close four chip plants and cut as many as 6,000 jobs.
Analysts laid the blame for Intel's actions on weak PC sales combined with tight-fisted consumers choosing low-cost models such as netbooks. They also said impressive new CPUs from rival Advanced Micro Devices were a factor.
Monday's CPU price cuts by Intel, as much as 40 percent on some high-end desktop chips, were aimed at "stimulating demand to consume [chip] inventory," said Ian Lao, an analyst with In-Stat. "Fabs are already scaling back but there is always a buffer effect from when a change is started until we see that change on the street. They are trying to match the fab capacity to help limit job cuts if possible."
The price cuts were just the beginning. On Wednesday, Intel said it would close close two assembly and test facilities -- one in Penang, Malaysia, and another in Cavite, the Philippines. It said it would also stop production at two wafer-production plants: Fab 20, an older 200mm wafer fabrication plant in Hillsboro, Ore.; and D2, a facility in Santa Clara, Calif.
The changes will affect between 5,000 and 6,000 employees worldwide, Intel said. Not all those employees will lose their jobs, however, as Intel plans to offer some of them positions at other facilities, the company said.
Intel will gradually close the facilities between now and the end of 2009, it said. The closures are designed to "align its manufacturing capacity to current market conditions," the company said.
Like many technology companies, Intel has been hit hard by the U.S. recession, which also has affected the global economy. For its fourth quarter ended Dec. 27, 2008, Intel's profit plunged 90 percent from a year earlier, falling short of Wall Street estimates.
Intel's layoffs and plant closures follow even larger restructuring at AMD. The chipmaker said in the fall it would spin off its chipmaking facilities and focus on chip design. On Monday, AMD announced it would cut 1,100 jobs, or 9 percent of its workforce.