Intel is taking a bath on its Cloudera investment heading into IPO

Intel is taking a bath on its Cloudera investment

Three years ago Intel placed a $742 million wager on Cloudera and labeled it the company's "single largest data center technology investment in its history."

Thus far, it's produced a lot of red ink.

Cloudera set its preliminary IPO price on Monday at $12 to $14 a share, well below half of Intel's May 2014 purchase price of $30.92.

All told, Intel invested $766.5 million in Cloudera, a stake that at the high end of the IPO range would be worth $348.2 million. Had the chipmaker just buried that cash in the S&P 500, it would now be worth about $925 million.

Founded in 2008, Cloudera is one of several Silicon Valley companies that's commercializing an open source programming framework called Hadoop, which helps businesses process large amounts of disparate data.

Intel invested in Cloudera as part of a strategic partnership at a time when private market valuations for hot start-ups were in the stratosphere. Hortonworks, Cloudera's top competitor, went public in December 2014, and has since gotten pummeled, dropping from $16 a share at its debut to $10.67 at Monday's close.

Cloudera's pricing "is largely due to Hortonworks' discounted valuation levels and growing perceived risk from public cloud players, such as Amazon and Google," wrote Rohit Kulkarni, managing director and head of research at SharesPost.

At $14 a share, Cloudera would be worth $1.79 billion, down from $4.1 billion when Intel invested.

Cloudera is also burning cash as it ramps up spending to reach large prospective customers. While revenue in the fiscal year ended January climbed 57 percent to $261 million, the company spent over $200 million on sales and marketing, resulting in a net loss of $187.3 million.

Intel could still make money on its Cloudera bet if it holds on to its shares and the stock rallies following the offering. And while a loss of a few hundred million dollars would sink many venture funds, Intel has a healthy $17.1 billion in cash on its balance sheet.