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TSMC Counts on New iPhones for Revival After Trade War Hit

By Bloomberg / Jul 18, 2019 10:12 AM / Business & Tech

Photo: Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

All eyes will be on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s outlook after the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer suffered its worst sales drop in nearly eight years.

Analysts expect the company’s third-quarter estimates — due today after the close of trading — to point to a revival after it took a hit from slowing demand amid U.S.-China trade tensions. At stake is the stock’s $35 billion rebound in market value since a January low.

Apple Inc.’s ramp up of iPhone manufacturing and a new product cycle from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are seen by Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts to lift sales, which would also be boosted if President Donald Trump loosens trade restrictions on key customer Huawei Technologies Co.

Analysts have forecast sales in the period to grow 15% from a quarter earlier, according to the average of 22 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company’s shares are up 12% this year, despite being whipsawed as the trade war escalated. They edged 0.6% higher Thursday morning.

“The company’s second-half outlook looks to be improving, and third-quarter guidance will probably be strong given that some of the lingering uncertainty has started to fade,” said John Tsai, portfolio manager at Eastspring Investments Ltd. in Singapore. The trade spat between Japan and South Korea may also help TSMC, as Samsung Electronics Co. customers such as Qualcomm Inc. may seek to diversify, he added.

TSMC saw sales drop 4.5% year-on-year in the first half, its worst performance since 2011. The company was grappling with the impact of a slowing global smartphone market and efforts by its biggest customer Apple to move beyond hardware. Then the trade war escalated into the U.S. blacklisting Huawei, TSMC’s second-largest customer.

Yet its leading position in advanced technology, especially in 5G and artificial intelligence, helped it secure revenue. Chip orders for crypto mining are also expected to help TSMC’s third-quarter sales, according to Morgan Stanley, which recently lifted its target price on the stock by 9%.

TSMC investors will also receive a NT$207 billion ($6.7 billion) dividend payout Thursday, according to stock exchange and company statements. The company is aiming for a dividend per share of at least NT$10 to lure value investors, something Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts Robin Cheng and Mike Yang see as possible in 2020. They argue that rising free cash flow justifies a re-rating of the stock.

Related: A Look at the Three Semiconductor Firms Applying to the New High-Tech Board
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