Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT), the largest producer of chipmaking equipment, reached the highest in more than eight months after predicting higher profit than estimated, signaling that semiconductor makers are pulling out of a spending slump.
Applied Materials gained 3.6 percent to $13.69 at 9:36 a.m. after yesterday forecasting higher profit, excluding certain costs, for the second quarter. Earlier the stock touched $13.94, the highest intraday price since May 20. The company was the fourth-best performer in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Customers are stepping up equipment spending to ensure they can meet demand for chips used in smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Samsung Electronics Co. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. are helping fuel the rebound, according to Patrick Ho, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
“TSMC and even Samsung are boosting orders,” Ho said. The Dallas-based analyst recommends buying Applied stock, which he owns himself. “They should benefit from that,” Ho said.
Excluding certain costs, second-quarter profit will be 20 cents to 28 cents a share, Santa Clara, California-based Applied said yesterday in a statement. Analysts had estimated 16 cents on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Sales in the current period will rise between 5 percent and 15 percent from the previous three months, the company predicted, indicating revenue of $2.3 billion to $2.52 billion. That compares with an average analyst estimate of $2.09 billion.
“The first half is driven by mobility,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Splinter said in an interview yesterday. “We’ve also gotten more positive on the economy. The U.S. is doing better, and Asia is doing better.”
Improving demand for chip machinery is helping make up for a slowdown in orders for equipment that produces flat-panel displays and solar panels. Applied expanded into that market in recent years, seeking to offset the swings in demand in its main business. Those newer areas won’t recover until closer to end of the year, Splinter said.
While sales of chip equipment jumped 26 percent last quarter from the preceding three months, display machinery dropped 39 percent and solar-related revenue fell 34 percent. Orders, an indicator of future revenue, rose 53 percent for the semiconductor group. Solar orders dropped 62 percent.
Investors and analysts track semiconductor-equipment orders as a harbinger of demand for electronics. Chipmakers such as Intel Corp. (INTC) and Samsung vary spending on new equipment and plants based on their predictions for demand as much as two years in advance. Their factories can cost more than $3 billion to build and run 24 hours a day, which makes the companies careful with equipment purchases.
Applied’s first-quarter net income decreased to $117 million, or 9 cents a share, from $506 million, or 38 cents, a year earlier. Revenue fell 19 percent to $2.19 billion. Excluding certain costs, profit was 18 cents a share in the period, which ended Jan. 29. Analysts on average had estimated profit of 12 cents and sales of $1.97 billion.
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