LCD panel maker AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電) on Thursday reported net losses of NT$3.69 billion (US$119.39 million) for the first quarter — the company’s first quarterly loss since the second quarter of 2016 — due to lagging shipments and falling product prices.
Losses per share were NT$0.38, compared with earnings per share of NT$0.45 a year earlier and NT$0.03 in the fourth quarter of last year.
AU Optronics’ gross margin was 0.4 percent and operating margin was minus-7.6 percent.
The company’s results were lower than analysts’ estimates due to a CPU shortage, which caused shipments of notebook computer panels to slip, and a decline in panel prices before the Lunar New Year holiday, Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) said in a client note.
Revenue declined 13.5 percent quarter-on-quarter to NT$66.7 billion for the first quarter, with shipments of large panels falling 9.1 percent to about 25.87 million units and shipments of small and medium panels falling 22.4 percent to about 24.96 million units, the company said in a statement.
“The first quarter was the traditional slow season, so market demand remained lackluster. Market prices for panels also remained low. As a result, AU Optronics’ revenue for the first quarter declined 13.5 percent quarter-on-quarter, and the financial results were less than ideal,” the company said.
“However, the management team kept the company’s financial structure stable and healthy, limiting inventory turnover days to 37 and maintaining a net debt-to-equity ratio of 12.6 percent,” the company said.
It said it expects market demand in the second quarter to recover as brand customers restock for the peak season, as it continues to market high value-added and non-commodity products and it extends its value chain by integrating hardware and software services.
Shipments of large panels are expected to be flat this quarter or slightly up from last quarter, while selling prices are expected to remain the same as last quarter, the company said at an investors’ conference on Thursday.
Shipments of small and medium panels are expected to increase by a low-teens percentage, with a slight oversupply this year, Yuanta quoted the company as saying.
South Korea’s LG Display Co on Wednesday reported an operating loss of 132 billion won (US$113.9 million) for last quarter and reiterated its intention to shift its focus to OLEDs.
“LG Display said it is undergoing a structural shift to the OLED segment, but did not share a timetable for shifting its capacity. We see this as a potential upside catalyst for LCD panel prices,” Yuanta said in the note.
As panel prices for some sizes could increase this quarter and South Korean players convert more LCD plants to OLED fabs, a cyclical bottom could emerge for AU Optronics, with a limited downside ahead, Yuanta said.
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