Roughly seven minutes ahead of Thursday’s closing bell, Intel’s (ticker: INTC) fourth-quarter results started to roll across wire services watched closely by investors and algorithms.
That the results went out early—while the regular trading session was still under way—is unusual. Under normal circumstances, Intel publishes a news release with the results shortly after 4 p.m. ET with clockwork-like precision.
Intel stock surged in the last moments of trading Thursday, but the shares closed Friday down 9.3%, at $56.66.
It wasn’t immediately clear on Thursday what had transpired. In the initial minutes, an Intel spokeswoman told Barron’s that there was an “error” and that the cause was being investigated. But then later Thursday, Intel Chief Financial Officer George Davis told the Financial Times that it had released results earlier than expected because the company was hacked.
“An infographic was hacked off of our PR newsroom site,” Davis told the newspaper. “We put [our earnings] out as soon as we were aware.”
Friday morning, the same Intel spokeswoman provided an updated statement. “We are investigating reports that nonauthorized access may have been obtained to one graphic in our earnings material,” she said.
And later Friday, Intel clarified that a URL, or universal resource locator, was inadvertently made public and was accessed by third parties. The company said it had adjusted its processes to prevent such accidents in the future.
To be clear, the issue doesn’t make any material difference for the company’s strong fourth-quarter earnings. And Intel’s response is typical for a company that is concerned its results might have been inadvertently disclosed to a select group of people.
Regardless of what exactly happened, at a time when a powerful activist is demanding the company make big changes, it is certainly an embarrassment for a big tech company that is trying to convince investors it can recapture its spot at the top.
Write to Max A. Cherney at email@example.com