Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 12 News List

BenQ profits after sale of shares

OUT OF THE HOLE For the first time in seven quarters, BenQ is back in the black after struggling with the failure of the cellphone unit it acquired from Siemens AG in 2003

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

BenQ Corp (明基), a local manufacturer of consumer electronics, yesterday posted profits for the first time in seven quarters, driven by the sale of its shares in affiliate AU Optronics Corp (友達光電).

BenQ posted a net income of NT$570 million (US$17.3 million), or NT$0.22 per share, compared with a loss of NT$2.5 billion, or NT$2.51 per share, for the same period last year.

In April, BenQ booked a profit of about NT$1.5 billion from selling 100 million shares of AU Optronics, the world's third-biggest flat panel maker, in which BenQ now owns an 8.42 percent stake.

The stake sale helped BenQ raise cash after the failure of the mobile-phone unit it acquired from Siemens AG in 2005, which put it in the red.

BenQ's operating loss was NT$1.91 billion in the second quarter, as a result of selling cellphones at low prices to clear inventory, president Sheaffer Lee (李錫華) told investors yesterday.

Lee said 70 percent of handset stock had been cleared in the second quarter and predicted the rest would be sold this quarter.

"Third-quarter revenues will grow from the second quarter because of the high season," he said.

The momentum is also partly a result of a gain in orders after the company announced in June that it would spin off its brand business and return to its forte, original design manufacturing (ODM).

BenQ -- which will be named "Qisda Corp" (佳世達) after the spinoff on Sept. 1 -- has since gained new orders for liquid-crystal-display (LCD) monitors, projectors and printers, Lee said.

"We are also shipping mobile phones to some European telecom operators, and more handset orders will come in the third and fourth quarters," he said.

After the spinoff, the company will see its LCD monitor business continue to grow, while sales of LCD TV sets will at least double next year, said Hsung Hui (熊暉), who will be Qisda's president.

"Qisda will continue to add to its ODM product portfolio and work on vertical integration in terms of mechanical component production capability," he said.

Six business units will be set up within Qisda: LCD monitors, LCD televisions, projectors, mobile communications, infotainment solutions, and scanners, printers and copiers, he said.

Qisda will work closely with AU Optronics, said Hsung, also a vice president at the panel maker.

"Many of our customers approach AU Optronics not only for panels, but for a whole product set. The future partnership will widen its service offerings," he said.

Frank Su (蘇穀祥), senior technology analyst at CLSA Ltd Taipei branch, welcomed the partnership.

"Qisda will be able to leverage the strength of AU Optronics, and this will differentiate it from those ODM makers without panel resources," he said.

BenQ's shares closed up 3.6 percent at NT$15.90 yesterday on the Taiwan Stock Exchange before the earnings release.

Meanwhile, BenQ said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday that it will sell 12 million shares of Darfon Electronics Corp (達方電子), reducing its stake in Darfon to 43 percent.

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