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5 Years : From Jul 2012 to Jul 2017
TAKING THE PULSE: Many semiconductor manufacturers shrugged off analysts' dour predictions last autumn and delivered strong third-quarter results, bucking forecasts--including some from the manufacturers themselves--that warned of weakening end-market demand. An important slice of the semiconductor industry is giving equally cautious guidance this time around, pointing to soft consumer demand in the U.S., the economic crisis in Europe and even signs of a slowdown in China.
Chip makers exposed to the personal-computer market remain more vulnerable than those supplying mobile devices and server arrays. Devastating floods in Thailand also dealt the PC market another blow by damaging a chunk of the world's hard-disk drive production, creating ripples in the semiconductor industry that could persist for one or two more quarters.
COMPANIES TO WATCH:
Intel Corp. (INTC) - Jan. 19
Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect a fourth-quarter profit of 61 cents a share with $13.72 billion in revenue. A year earlier, the company posted a profit of 59 cents a share and revenue of $11.46 billion.
Key Issues: Softening PC demand has done little to slow Intel's robust top-line growth, fueled by healthy enterprise demand and brisk sales in emerging markets. The company is also pushing the adoption of ultrabooks--fast, lightweight laptop computers--in an effort to keep its PC client business humming. Still, Intel last month warned the floods in Thailand would likely drag its fourth-quarter revenue about $1 billion below its previous guidance.
Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) - Jan. 23
Wall Street Expectations: Wall Street sees a profit of 38 cents a share on revenue of $3.25 billion. A year earlier, the company posted a profit of 78 cents a share and $3.53 billion in revenue.
Key Issues: TI also cut its fourth-quarter guidance last month, pointing to broad-based weakness in all of its end markets, from communications infrastructure to videogame hardware. The chip maker's customers are still working through excess inventory, making it even harder for TI to match the robust results it delivered last year.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) - Jan. 24
Wall Street Expectations: Analysts predict a per-share profit of 16 cents and revenue of $1.71 billion. Last year, the company reported a profit of 50 cents a share, or 14 cents excluding a large accounting-driven tax gain, and $1.65 billion in revenue.
Key Issues: AMD is working to recover after manufacturing problems limited its supply of a key processor line. Production snafus and late deliveries have prevented AMD from chipping away at Intel's commanding market share, though AMD has said it expects business will turn around as a new chief executive tries to put the company on the right foot. The chip maker might also avoid another problem afflicting its competitors: Chief Executive Rory Read said the floods in Thailand didn't put much pressure on AMD's fourth-quarter business.
Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) - Jan. 31
Wall Street Expectations: The consensus calls for a profit of 65 cents a share and $1.8 billion in revenue. A year earlier, the company posted a profit of 47 cents a share--75 cents, excluding certain items--and $1.95 billion in revenue.
Key Issues: Broadcom gave an upbeat outlook for the latest quarter due to its exposure to a strong mobile-phone market. Shipments of Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone are driving some of the growth--teardowns of the iPhone 4S showed Apple using a newer Broadcom chip for WiFi, Bluetooth and FM Radio. The company is also equipping itself for future demand with a $3.7 billion offer for NetLogic Microsystems Inc. (NETL), a maker of network-focused processors, and its own line of high-bandwidth WiFi devices.
Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) - Feb. 1
Wall Street Expectations: Analysts expect earnings of 90 cents a share and revenue of $4.57 billion. Last year, the company reported a profit of 71 cents a share, or 82 cents excluding items, and $3.35 billion in revenue.
Key Issues: Qualcomm has maintained a relatively bullish outlook for its fiscal first quarter, for good reason. The chip maker remains well positioned to benefit from its enviable position as supplier for many of the world's smartphones. The mobile-device market remains strong, and analysts said Qualcomm's code-division multiple-access technology, or CDMA, will see even more use as media tablet-computer makers begin shipping more devices capable of connecting to third-generation phone networks.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com