Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Q2 earnings worries hurt chip packagers

DOWNSWING?Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Siliconware Precision felt the heat yesterday from US rival Amkor Technology's lower quarterly forecast {

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Contract chip assembler Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc's (日月光半導體) shares went limit-down yesterday after its larger US rival Amkor Technology Inc projected weaker second-quarter earnings, which analysts said might herald an early downswing for the industry.

The Arizona-based Amkor, the world's largest semiconductor testing and packaging service provider, lowered its second-quarter earnings projection to US$0.06 per share, compared to a previous forecast of US$0.17 to US$0.22, according to a company statement released on Thursday.

Amkor also trimmed its gross margin forecast for the quarter to June to 19 percent from its previous estimate of 24 percent. Amkor is scheduled to release its second-quarter results on July 27.

Dragged down by Amkor's news, Advanced Semiconductor shares plunged to NT$26.3 on the TAIEX. Smaller rival Siliconware Precision Industries Co (矽品) was down 5.49 percent to NT$25.8.

"As the [semiconductor indus-try's] down cycle is widely expected to arrive sometime in 2005, investors will be overly sensitive about the industry's ups and downs this year," said Alfred Ying, an analyst with BNP Paribas Peregrine.

"I think most chip testers and packagers will be able to sustain robust growth in the short term, although the industry is gradually hitting its peak," Ying said.

In addition, Advanced Semiconductor and Siliconware Precision will be in better position in gain more orders due to tighter cost controls and being closer to their major wafer foundry clients, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電), he said.

Freddie Liu (劉詩亮), spokesman for Advanced Semiconductor, told the Taipei Times that the company will stick to its earlier projection.

"Amkor's situation doesn't apply to the whole sector. We think the prospects for the industry are very healthy," Liu said.

Second-quarter sales are expected to grow at a quarterly 15-percent pace at least, beating the previous estimate of 10 percent, he said.

The company reported lower-than-expected sales of NT$1.63 billion for the first quarter.

The gross margin will also rebound to around 24 percent from 21.4 percent in the first quarter, he said, which is pretty close to the five-quarter high of 25 percent.

The Amkor bombshell, however, stirred fresh worries that previous optimism about the semiconductor industry might not prove justified, said Charlie Chen (陳思旭), a semiconductor analyst at Grand Cathay Securities Co (大華證券).

As wafer foundries are still operating at full capacity, Chen said he did not see any immediate proof pointing to an industrial reverse.

"The growth momentum has slowed down recently -- as reflected in the monthly sales reports -- but we don't expect a steep downturn to arrive soon," Chen said.

He said he expects Advanced Semiconductor's earnings to rise about 25 percent to NT$2.1 billion in the April to June period from NT$1.67 billion in the first quarter.

Some 37 percent of Advanced Semiconductor's sales come from the communications segment.

Siliconware Precision's earnings will slide nearly 17 percent to NT$1.2 billion sequentially due to the slow season for the computer industry, Chen said.

Sales from the PC sector made up a hefty 43 percent of Siliconware Precision's total sales of NT$8.24 billion in the first quarter.

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