Applied Materials Says Demand Growing for Solar Equipment

Applied Materials Inc. said demand for semiconductor and solar-panel manufacturing equipment in Europe is growing rapidly, a sign the region’s debt crisis isn’t crimping spending.

The use of panels on rooftops is growing at an “unprecedented rate,” and China is also driving demand in the market for equipment, Chief Executive Officer Mike Splinter said today at the Semicon West show in San Francisco.

Applied Materials, the world’s biggest maker of chip equipment, has tried to lessen its dependence on that market by expanding into solar-panel machinery. The division that includes the solar business accounted for 7.2 percent of revenue last quarter. The company’s earnings act as a bellwether for the chip market because semiconductor companies order machinery in anticipation of increased demand.

“This is the first time since 2007 we can actually have a smile on our face at Semicon West,” Splinter said.

In May, the Santa Clara, California-based company predicted sales will grow more than 60 percent this year, up from an earlier forecast of 50 percent. The company had projected profit in the current period of 22 cents to 26 cents a share, excluding certain items. That compares with the 25-cent average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales will rise as much as 5 percent from the second quarter’s $2.3 billion, it said.

Applied Materials rose 21 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $12.52 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have dropped 10 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joseph Galante in San Francisco at jgalante3@bloomberg.net; Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net

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