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EARNINGS PREVIEW: European Chip Sector At Top End Of Views

By Archibald Preuschat Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES TAKING THE PULSE: European semiconductor companies have seen further growth in the January to March quarter as demand recovers across regions and in the corporate sector, JP Morgan analysts said in a note earlier this week. They forecast regional chip firms will deliver results at the top end of guidance, or better, with the second quarter also expectedf to come in at the top end of the seasonal range. Infineon Technologies AG (IFX.XE) already said Monday its March quarter was better than expected, leading it to raise its guidance for fiscal 2010, which ends Sept. 30. U.S. peer Intel Corp. (INTC), which will report later Tuesday, is expected to show another quarter of strong growth after a difficult first quarter last year. In Europe, Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML NV (ASML.AE) will kick off the earnings season and Barclays Capital analysts expect orders to be strong with a subsequent increase in the second quarter. STMicroelectronics NV's (STM) results are also expected to be strong and U.K.-based ARM Holdings PLC's (ARM.LN) first quarter revenue and profit is expected to increase on market share gains and new customers. COMPANIES TO WATCH ---- ASML Holding N.V. (ASML.AE) --- (April 14) MARKET EXPECTATIONS: ASML is expected to post net profit up 99% on quarter at EUR99.7 million and a sequential 23% rise in sales to EUR714 million slightly above the company's guidance of EUR700 million, according to a FactSet survey. MAIN FOCUS: ASML was confident for the first half of the year, but analysts believe that the strong momentum will remain into the second half, helped by capacity orders of flash memory chips, which are used in smartphones. --- STMicroelectronics NV (STM) --- (April 22) MARKET EXPECTATIONS: Following a series of strong positive signs across the sector, analysts expect STMicroelectronics first-quarter results to be very strong, both at the top and bottom line. The group is expected to post revenue at the top end of its guidance range of $2.25 billion to $2.4 billion, notably on the back of strong demand in automotive and industrial sectors. MAIN FOCUS: STMicro is also expected to issue strong guidance, above seasonal averages. Comments from management are expected to confirm the recent rebound in the technology industry and analysts will be looking for an update on inventories and a clarification about possible double-bookings to assess whether the recovery in demand is sustainable. --- ARM Holdings PLC (ARM.LN) --- (April 27) MARKET EXPECTATIONS: The U.K.-based microchip designer is expected to report an increase in first quarter revenue and profit on the back of market share gains and new customers. ARM, which generates the bulk of its sales in US dollars, is expected to report 1Q revenue of $141.4 million, up 17% from $120.9 million a year ago, according to a survey of 23 analysts. Profit before tax and exceptional items seen up 36% to GBP32.6 million from GBP23.9 million a year earlier. MAIN FOCUS: The focus will be on the group's order backlog--revenue to be booked at a later stage--after reporting in February a 30% jump in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the third quarter. At the time, Chief Executive Warren East said the group is "well placed" for the strong performance to continue. It also forecast that dollar revenues this year would be at least in line with current market expectations as trading conditions improved. ---ASM International (ASMI)--- (April 28) MARKET EXPECTATION: ASM International will benefit from rising capital expenditure in the semiconductor industry, JP Morgan said, and raised its estimates. Its analysts now expect sales up 10% on quarter with revenue at its front end operations, which make equipment to produce semiconductors, up 13% on quarter while sales for its back-end division, which assembles and packages the chips, up 9.7% compared with the fourth quarter. MAIN FOCUS: ASM International made some progress on the cost front but its front-end business remained loss making in the first quarter and analysts doubt if ASMI can benefit from the flash memory capacity build, which is considered one of the main drivers of the up-cycle in semiconductor capex. --- Infineon Technologies AG (IFX.XE)--- (April 28) MARKET EXPECTATION: Infineon already said that its second quarter sales will be up approximately 10% from the previous quarter and it expects an operating margin "of just over 10%" due to strict cost management and a favorable market environment. MAIN FOCUS: Infineon also already indicated that it will raise its outlook for fiscal 2010, but so far has given no further details. The influence of the stronger U.S. dollar against the euro will also be eyed. -By Archibald Preuschat, Dow Jones Newswires; +49 211 13872 18; archibald.preuschat@dowjones.com (Ruth Bender in Paris and Lilly Vitorovich in London contributed to this article.)

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