LCD panel maker AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電) returned a profit in the third quarter — the first quarter in eight — as demand boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic drove shipments of large TVs and notebook computers.
The stay-at-home, work-from-home and distance-learning trends helped the Hsinchu-based company make NT$2.89 billion (US$99.95 million) in net profit last quarter, reversing a loss of NT$2.96 billion in the second quarter and a loss of NT$3.99 billion in the third quarter last year.
That translated into earnings per share of NT$0.3, versus minus-NT$0.31 a quarter earlier and minus-NT$0.41 a year earlier.
Photo: Chen Mei-ying, Taipei Times
The firm expects the uptrend to extend into this quarter and even to “overflow” into the first half of next year, as a resurgence of the pandemic hits many countries, further supporting the stay-at-home economy.
The prices of TV and PC panels this quarter are expected to increase by 8 to 9 percent quarterly, following an uptick of 8.82 percent in the blended average selling price to US$333 per unit last quarter, it said.
While unit shipments are expected to slide, factory utilization should remain high, similar to last quarter’s 95 percent, it added.
“The industry’s seasonal cycles this year have been upended by the pandemic,” AUO chairman Paul Peng (彭雙浪) told investors yesterday. “We think the first quarter will be a trough, as we expected. Operations will improve quarter by quarter in the remainder of this year.”
On the demand front, the company sees the stay-at-home economy continuing to drive robust demand in the fourth quarter, Peng said.
Remote schooling has prompted strong demand for Chromebooks, he said, adding that the company has accumulated a large backlog of orders for Chromebook panels.
Global sales of TV sets last quarter rose about 11 percent from a year earlier, beating the market’s expectation of 3 percent growth, AUO said.
Notebook computer shipments last quarter rose 35 percent and whole-year shipments are likely to register double-digit percentage growth, the company said.
On the supply side, new capacity expansion in China has slowed, as the government slashed subsidies and allocated more resources to support semiconductor technology development in the wake of the US-China trade dispute, Peng said.
Tight component supply is a major concern, he said, adding that the company is also closely monitoring the economic fallout of geopolitical tensions and the pandemic.
AUO holds a positive outlook for the industry long term, with it likely to move toward healthy, market-oriented development over the next few years in the absence of intervention by the Chinese government, Peng said.
The company said that it expects capital spending this year to reach about NT$20 billion.
Yesterday, Innolux Corp (群創) reported that it also swung into the black last quarter with a net profit of NT$1.54 billion, or NT$0.16 per share, compared with a loss of NT$4.78 billion in the second quarter.
The company posted a net loss of NT$3.89 billion in the third quarter last year.
Innolux holds a positive outlook for this quarter, expecting shipments of large panels to drop about 5 percent from last quarter, while the average selling price is expected to rise by 8 to 9 percent from last quarter.
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