Chipmakers report sales growth on mobile uptake

FOLLOW THE LEADER::As consumers move to mobile devices, the nation’s chipmakers are now being defined by their ability to track, or stay ahead of, changes in technology

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Feb 09, 2013 - Page 13

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday said that last month’s sales grew 27.7 percent from December last year and were up 37.1 percent from the same period the previous year, which analysts said was due to strong demand for chips used in smartphones and other mobile devices.

The world’s top contract chipmaker said in a statement its consolidated revenue for last month was NT$47.44 billion (US$1.59 billion), compared with NT$37.15 billion the previous month and NT$34.61 billion in January of last year.

Last month’s figure represented its highest sales since October, when the Hsinchu-based firm reported record consolidated sales of NT$49.94 billion, the company’s data showed.

Analysts expected TSMC’s revenue growth to decelerate this month because of the Lunar New Year holiday and recover next month, bringing first-quarter revenue to meet the company’s forecast of between NT$127 billion and NT$129 billion for the quarter.

On Jan. 17, TSMC chairman and chief executive Morris Chang (張忠謀) told an investors’ conference that first-quarter revenue in US dollar terms would be flat from the fourth quarter, while in New Taiwan dollar terms sales might fall by between 1.76 percent and 3.28 percent from NT$131.31 billion the previous quarter.

Carlos Peng (彭國維), a Fubon Securities Investment Services Co (富邦投顧) analyst, said that TSMC’s above-consensus sales guidance for the current quarter was supported by its leading-edge 28-nanometer (nm) and 20nm-node technologies and a widening process-technology gap compared with its peers.

Chang said he expected 28nm products to be a very strong growth driver this year, followed by growth in 20nm products next year.

This year, revenue from 28nm chips would account for more than 30 percent of the firm’s revenue, up from 12 percent last year, Chang said on Jan. 17.

United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電), the world’s No. 2 contract chipmaker, yesterday also reported an increase in sales for last month following declining monthly sales in December last year.

The company said in a statement that consolidated revenue rose 21.24 percent to NT$9.45 billion from NT$7.8 billion in December and was up 6.87 percent from NT$8.84 billion in January last year.

For this quarter, UMC chief executive officer Yen Po-wen (顏博文) told investors on Wednesday that the company forecast wafer shipments would increase by 6 percent from last quarter, because of contributions from its Chinese subsidiary He Jian Technology (Suzhou) Co (和艦科技), but that overall sales would be flat from last quarter’s NT$26.09 billion because of a 6 percent decline in average selling prices and lower utilization rates.

UMC also predicted a single-digit revenue contribution from 28nm products by the end of the year.

However, Peng expects that the company’s revenue is likely to disappoint the market again this year, because of the slow progress of 28nm production.

“UMC’s 28nm progress is too slow to catch up with the rapidly-changing market, leading to a significant market share loss in 2013,” Peng said in a report on Thursday.

He warned that UMC would miss the upward trend of portable device migration, including smartphones and tablets, as well as continuing to lose advanced process market share over the next two quarters.

Separately, smaller foundry operator Vanguard International Semiconductor Corp (世界先進) on Thursday reported 20.09 percent growth in revenue at NT$1.67 billion for last month, from NT$1.39 billion in December last year, because of growth in wafer shipments, vice president Tseng Dong-liang (曾棟樑) said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

On an annual basis, that represented an expansion of about 56.9 percent from NT$1.06 billion in the same period the previous year.

Vanguard, in which TSMC owns a 39 percent stake, said on Monday it expected wafer shipments this quarter to be flat, or to fall slightly from last quarter’s 371 million units, with average selling prices down by 2 percent from last quarter.

Additional reporting by Lisa Wang and Helen Ku