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The Year Ahead

Intel Is About to Relinquish Its Chipmaking Crown to Samsung

It’s a symbolic blow for the U.S. at a time when the geopolitics of semiconductors are trickier than ever.

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Photo illustration: 731; Photos: Intel; Justin Fantl; TPG/Zuma Press

Intel Corp. is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest chipmaker. For the first three quarters of 2021, Samsung Electronics Co. held a narrow lead in sales. The final numbers for the full year will be available in late January, but it seems likely that Intel will drop to second place. Even if the company holds on for another year, this has the appearance of a durable reordering.

Investors are already acting as if Intel’s heyday has passed. Several other chipmakers have higher stock market values, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Nvidia Corp., whose market valuation is more than three times that of Intel’s.