April 22, 2020 / 12:00 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-STMicro expects higher sales in second half, lifting shares

(Recasts story, adds CEO quote, details, background)

* Expects full-year revenue of $8.8 bln-$9.5 bln

* Firms sees signs of recovery in China’s auto industry

* STMicro shares among top performers in Milan, Paris

* Company still cut its 2019 dividend

By Mathieu Rosemain and Zuzanna Szymanska

PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics said on Wednesday it expected second-half sales to grow compared to the first half, betting on initial signs of a recovery in demand in Asia as efforts to contain the coronavirus start working.

Asian tech firms have been more upbeat. Samsung Electronics showed this month that smartphone sales in China were rising again as COVID-19 cases fell and global demand for chips used in work-from-home networks had surged.

STMicro, which supplies iPhone maker Apple, electric carmaker Tesla and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, makes a range of sensors and chips used in the telecoms, auto and manufacturing sectors. It saw sales rise in recent quarters, helped by moves to deploy 5G infrastructure.

The company said it expected sales to grow in the range of $340 million to $1.04 billion in the second half, bringing group revenues for the year to between $8.8 billion and $9.5 billion.

The guidance lifted STMicro’s shares, which rose more than 7% in late session trading in Paris and Milan, making the shares among the top performers on the Italian and French markets.

“The distribution channel is showing some recovery in China, after a restart of operations, but a slowdown in Europe and in the U.S.,” Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Chery told a call with analysts.

“We are now starting to see some early signs of recovery in China,” he said, referring specifically to the auto industry.

STMicro’s expectations were more upbeat than those announced by its peer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd in April. The Taiwanese firm trimmed full-year revenue outlook because of fallout from the coronavirus.

But STMicro still cut its dividend for the 2019 fiscal year by about 30% to $0.17 per share.

The Geneva-based group also said it expected a 10% drop in second-quarter revenue, compared to first quarter, due to declining automotive demand and ongoing measures by governments to contain the virus.

Second-quarter gross margins should come in at about 34.6% compared to 37.9% in the first quarter due to these challenges, Chery said. (Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain;)

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