Apple Chip Supplier's Solid Performance Shows Resilience in Trade Fight




Apple Chip Supplier
Apple Chip Supplier's Solid Performance Shows Resilience in Trade Fight  

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. projected current-quarter revenue ahead of estimates, as the Apple Inc. supplier shrugs off a smartphone slump and U.S. sanctions on Huawei Technologies Co. to ride demand for cutting-edge chips.

The world's largest contract chipmaker expects sales of $9.1 billion to $9.2 billion in the September quarter, ahead of average projections for about $8.9 billion. The Taiwanese company earlier reported a fall in June-quarter net income to NT$66.8 billion ($2.1 billion), surpassing the NT$65.7 billion estimated.

TSMC's solid outlook may allay fears of a persistent global chip downturn as Washington and Beijing clash. Its technological edge in chipmaking may help it grab an outsized portion of demand for advanced high-performance semiconductors, particularly as countries roll out ultra-fast fifth generation wireless networks. TSMC's business has bottomed and should begin to rebound, Chief Executive Officer C. C. Wei said.

"We have passed the bottom of the cycle of our business, and should see our demand increase," he told reporters in Taipei Thursday. "We see very, very strong demand" in the second half of 2019.

Click here to read a liveblog of TSMC's post-announcement briefing

Orders for crypto-mining gear are expected to help TSMC's third-quarter sales, according to Morgan Stanley, which recently lifted its target price on the stock by 9%. The typical year-end ramp up of iPhone manufacturing and a new chip-product cycle from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. could also buoy the top line.

"The guidance shows that management is confident on the recovery of demand in 2H, possibly boosted by new orders from AMD," Bloomberg Intelligence Charles Shum said. "And, we expect the gross margin can return to 50%" by the fourth quarter.

TSMC and its industry peers are grappling with a plateauing smartphone market, efforts by top customer Apple to move beyond hardware, and U.S. tech-export curbs that have hammered No. 2 customer Huawei. It previously reported a 4.5% slide in first-half revenue -- its worst January-to-June performance since 2011.

While top executives expressed confidence that things are turning around, they warned of uncertainty springing from global trade tensions. Japan's curbs on the export to South Korea of certain vital chipmaking materials could hammer industry players like Samsung Electronics Co., and further depress global smartphone demand.

"The recent Japan-Korea dispute is probably the most uncertain" factor for TSMC's fourth quarter, Chairman Mark Liu said.

As the world's largest player in the business of made-to-order chips, TSMC is a barometer for the broader industry as well as Apple, which accounts for about a fifth of its revenue. While uncertainty remains, its better-than-projected outlook underscores expectations the industry is bottoming out after a dismal few years, when consumers took longer to replace their smartphones and Bitcoin prices collapsed.

The company on Thursday signaled its intention to invest for the future, saying its spending on capacity and upgrades could exceed $11 billion this year.

TSMC's shares stood largely unchanged before the announcement and have gained more than 12% this year.

(Updates with commentary around Japan and Korea from the 7th paragraph.)

--With assistance from Cindy Wang, Gao Yuan, Sheryl Tian Tong Lee and Adela Lin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Debby Wu in Taipei at dwu278@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum Murphy

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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