January 18, 2012 11:40 am

ASML beats forecasts with record profits

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The Netherlands’ ASML, the world’s largest maker of equipment for manufacturing computer chips, shot past analysts’ expectations with strong fourth-quarter results and record-high sales and profits for the year.

ASML annual results 2011
Sales Net profit Earnings per share Dividend
€5.65bn €1.47bn €3.45 €0.46
↑25% ↑44% ↑47% ↑ ↓

The company benefited from strong worldwide demand for smartphones and tablet computers.

It revised its projections for the first half of 2012 upwards.

The results provided some counter-evidence to warnings of a gathering slowdown in the global industrial economy.

ASML reported sales in the fourth quarter of €1.21bn, €70m higher than analysts’ consensus. New orders hit €710m, also above expectations.

That put overall sales for the year at €5.65bn, a full billion euros higher than its previous record last year.

Shares were up over 2 per cent to €34.38 in morning trading on the Amsterdam exchange, while the AEX index of shares stayed flat.

Eric Meurice, chief executive, said in a statement he expects “a healthy start for 2012” with sales at roughly the same level as in the fourth quarter and new orders going even higher.

Demand for the company’s equipment for manufacturing logic chips was growing strongly, he indicated, while demand for DRAM memory chips remained in a long-lasting slump.

The chip lithography business is strongly cyclical, prone to radical shifts depending on industry assessments of future demand for consumer electronics.

Analysts had expected strong results from ASML as Japan’s technology sector continues its efforts to recover from the Fukushima earthquake last year.

But the new projection of €2.4bn in sales for the first half of 2012 “blows past expectations,” wrote Victor Bareno of SNS Securities.

ASML said it was raising its dividend from €0.40 to €0.46 cents and was considering a possible buy-back of some €1bn of shares.

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