Intel chief executive Bob Swan will step down next month, the computer chip giant said today, weeks after a hedge fund sent a letter demanding changes in its business. 

"Intel today announced that its board of directors has appointed 40-year technology industry leader Pat Gelsinger as its new chief executive officer, effective February 15, 2021," the company said in a statement. 

"He will succeed Bob Swan," it added. 

Though Intel said the announcement was "unrelated" to Intel's financial performance, the decision follows a December letter to the company from Third Point, led by activist investor Daniel Loeb. 

The hedge fund told the company it should consider outsourcing its manufacturing operations to keep pace with rivals in the sector such as Taiwan-based TSMC and South Korean giant Samsung, among others.  

"We suggest the board retain a reputable investment advisor to evaluate strategic alternatives, including whether Intel should remain an integrated device manufacturer and the potential divestment of certain failed acquisitions," it stated. 

While Intel remains one of the world's leading chip companies, it has lagged behind rivals in the fast-growing segment of mobile devices.

Its chips are being phased out by Apple, which is developing its own microprocessors for its Mac computers. 

Swan was made interim chief executive in 2018 and appointed permanently the next year after his predecessor Brian Krzanich resigned over a relationship with an employee that violated a company non-fraternisation policy. 

Gelsinger is currently CEO of software firm VMware but spent 30 years at Intel and also served as chief operating officer of EMC's Information Infrastructure Products division, the company said.

Gelsinger joined Intel when he was 18, and the company helped him attend Santa Clara University and Stanford University.

In a letter to Intel's employees, Gelsinger likened the move to coming "home."

"Having begun my career at Intel and learned at the feet of Grove, Noyce and Moore, it's my privilege and honour to return in this leadership capacity," Gelsinger said in a statement.

"I have tremendous regard for the company’s rich history and powerful technologies that have created the world’s digital infrastructure."