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STMicro Swings to Loss on Digital, Automotive Weakness

STMicroelectronics N.V. (STM, STM.FR, STM.MI) swung to a second-quarter loss as the semiconductor company saw softer results in its digital and automotive businesses. The Franco-Italian chip maker has now seen losses for three consecutive quarters, as it has faced declines in its wireless business, largely via its ST-Ericsson joint venture with Ericsson (ERIC). ST-Ericsson is highly exposed to declining sales of low-cost handsets, as well as the woes at Nokia Corp. (NOK). STMicro has said that it expects sequential improvements in revenue in the second half of 2012 from its own core businesses, which include chips for automobiles, as well as accelerometers used for motion detection various devices, like phones and cameras. "As we saw during the end of the second quarter, the global economic environment has weakened. As a result, bookings in June softened and remain somewhat volatile," Chief Executive Carlo Bozotti said. "Nonetheless, we continue to expect sequential revenue growth and gross margin improvement with respect to the third quarter, thanks to our new product momentum." He added that the company plans to cut its capital expenditures by 25% for the year. The picture is also improving at ST-Ericsson, which is in the midst of a restructuring to cut costs, and efforts to diversify its client base. The joint venture said last week that it had seen 19% quarter-to-quarter improvement in revenue in the second quarter, ahead of some analysts' estimates. In recent months, some analysts have upgraded STMicro, seeing a buying opportunity after shares have dropped sharply since March. In the latest quarter, STMicro reported a loss of $75 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $420 million, or 46 cents a share. Excluding restructuring charges and other adjustments, the company posted a loss of 5 cents a share, compared with a profit of 14 cents a share last year. Analysts expected a loss of 3 cents a share. Revenue fell 16% to $2.15 billion, in line with the $2.11 billion to $2.23 billion the company predicted in April. Gross margin narrowed to 34.3% from 38.1%. The company expected roughly 34.4%. Revenue in the wireless business, which includes the contribution from ST-Ericsson, shrank 0.9%. Sales from STMicro's digital business slipped 32%, while the automotive business posted 12% lower revenue. Shares closed Monday at $4.76 and were inactive after hours. Through the close, the stock had fallen 20% so far this year. Write to Ben Fox Rubin at Subscribe to WSJ:

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