The Day Ahead: Intel provides excuse to buy; eUniverse moves up

Investors perked up after Intel said it will spend $2bn to expand its manufacturing capacity. Is this a good sign? Also: eUniverse gains momentum
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Investors perked up after Intel said it will spend $2bn (£1.35bn) to expand its manufacturing capacity. Wall Street should cheer not because Intel's investment means much, but because some investors were looking for an excuse to buy.

And given a market where upside surprises from the likes of Cisco mean zilch, traders will take what they can get.

Intel's expansion plans barely qualified as news. The company said it will invest $2bn to expand manufacturing operations in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The expansion will incorporate Intel's new 0.13-micron process technology and manufacture microprocessors on 300 mm (12 inch) wafers. Construction will begin immediately.

Big deal. We knew the company needed to boost capacity. The real news was investors used Intel as an excuse to buy after the Nasdaq bottomed out.

Sure, Intel needs to boost capacity to meet strong demand, but didn't we know that already? Chip sales have been booming and shortages are everywhere. The companies making out the most from the chip boom are equipment makers such as Applied Materials.

Guessing the market is a fool's game, but if investors are looking for buying excuses maybe that indicates a bottom for tech stocks.

Intel said on its first quarter conference call that it grossly underestimated demand and would boost capital spending. The real story is how Intel has misjudged demand for the last year. Intel upped its capital spending target to $6bn from $5bn just a little more than a month ago.

In any case, Intel reaffirmed what was common knowledge -- Tech demand is strong across nearly all sectors. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Advanced Micro Devices and many other companies have said the outlook is bright.

Just because the market is skittish doesn't mean business fundamentals have changed.

Maybe Intel's need to "meet the growing future demand" will be enough to bring the bulls back.

If folks are actually getting optimistic about the tech sector, maybe there's a chance they'll even look at a few up-and-coming dot-coms.

Enter eUniverse. When we last checked in with the company it was trying to get listed on the Nasdaq. Mission accomplished. Now eUniverse, which runs commerce and entertainment properties for Generation Y and gamers among others, has been quietly moving up the Media Metrix charts.

EUniverse ranked 17th in April in terms of unique users. The ranking upstaged high-profile competitors such as Snowball.com, which ranked 30th.

Why hasn't anyone noticed? For starters, no one wants to hear about dot-coms these days, especially the consumer-oriented variety. In addition, analysts aren't covering eUniverse.

But that doesn't mean investors shouldn't start poking around. We recently talked to eUniverse Chairman Brad Greenspan, who was upbeat about the company's prospects. Here's the recap:

  • On the target audience: Greenspan said he's positioning the company as an entertainment network focused on all demographics, not just the Generation Y (teenage) crowd. He sees eUniverse in competition with About.com and Go2Net for advertising dollars. "We have an older demographic that just a Gen Y site," he said. "We've been moving toward that internally for awhile."
  • On why few have heard of eUniverse despite strong traffic figures: Greenspan said the company has been deliberately quiet since its Nasdaq listing. The company is currently in talks with strategic partners, including a few unnamed domestic media companies. Greenspan said his company's status improves as long as the company keeps executing. "We've had discussions with a bunch of different players," he said. "We're taking the time to find the right one."
  • On its cash position: Including recent private placements, eUniverse has roughly $3.9m in cash. Once the company announces a strategic partner, its cash position will improve, he said. Greenspan said eUniverse's cash position needs to be put in context -- it took roughly $9.5m to build out its network. "A lot of companies have spent $100m taking random shots," he said. Simply put, eUniverse can stretch $3.9m a long way.
  • On analyst coverage: eUniverse has talked to investment analysts about coverage, but it's tough to get noticed without handing out some underwriting work. Greenspan said the company is considering raising additional funding through an equity offering down the road, but nothing is imminent. Analyst coverage would be a bonus. "We've been executing under the radar," he said. "We're continuing to build up a critical mass."
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