Fingerprint sensors help China’s top contract chipmaker SMIC ‘outperform a weaker’ market as Q3 net profit jumps 73.9 per cent

Shanghai-based company posts another record quarter, expects 2015 revenue to grow 10 per cent on-year despite lacklustre global demand

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 November, 2015, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 November, 2015, 10:00pm

China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) is gearing up to further expand its product line, emboldened by another quarter of record sales and earnings in the three months ended September 30.

The largest contract chip manufacturer in mainland China expected to post its fourth consecutive quarter of solid growth in the three months to December, according to the company’s regulatory filing late on Tuesday.

“We have achieved a strong 2015 so far, our best historically in terms of revenue, profitability and utilisation,” SMIC chief executive Chiu Tzu-yin said in a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

The company estimated its total revenue for the whole year would grow more than 10 per cent from 2014 despite a slowing domestic economy and lacklustre demand in the global chip industry.

“SMIC continues to outperform a weaker semiconductor market,” Jefferies equity analyst Ken Hui said in research note.

Shanghai-based SMIC saw its third-quarter net profit increase 73.9 per cent to US$82.6 million, up from US$47.5 million in the same period last year, on the back of higher communications and consumer electronics-related sales.

READ MORE: Low-cost smartphone sales to bolster Asia semiconductor demand

That beat the US$47.9 million consensus estimate from analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and the US$39 million projected by Jefferies.

Third-quarter revenue grew 9.2 per cent to a record-high US$569.9 million from US$521.6 million a year ago.

Jefferies’ Hui said SMIC has benefited from strong market growth in fingerprint sensors, which are rapidly being adopted in more smartphone models.

“SMIC’s dominant fingerprint customer is Sweden-based Fingerprint Cards,” Hui said.

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He predicted SMIC would see growth accelerate from this product segment based on Fingerprint Cards’ plans to expand shipments of those sensors to 150 million units next year, up from between 40 million to 50 million units this year.

Customers in SMIC’s Eurasia geographic market, which excludes mainland China and Hong Kong, contributed 18.2 per cent to sales in the third quarter, up from 14.1 per cent in the same period last year.

Customers in mainland China made up 47.9 per cent of SMIC’s third-quarter revenue, compared with 42.2 per cent a year ago.

Revenue contribution from North America was down to 33.9 per cent from 43.7 per cent the previous year.

READ MORE: Taiwan eases curbs on its firms making semiconductors in mainland China

“We have successfully diversified our products as well as our customer base, and have shown resilience in the face of seasonally weaker market trends,” Chui said.

The customers of SMIC consist of “fabless” semiconductor companies, which design chips and outsource fabrication to integrated-circuit foundries like SMIC.

Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, which supply many of the essential chips used in smartphones and media tablets, are among SMIC’s top multinational clients.

Chui said the company is continuing to expand its product portfolio, with the announcement on Tuesday of the company’s own “Poly Contact for Ultra Low Leakage” technology.

That new technology is targeted by SMIC for ultra-low power memory controller units, high-performance analogue chips and so-called Internet of Things-related applications.

In September, SMIC teamed up with a subsidiary of Qualcomm to invest US$280 million for the development of an advanced assembly package line for mainland China’s growing chip industry.

The two parties agreed to invest in SJ Semiconductor, a specialist in advanced wafer-level packaging and testing based in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu.

That deal is backed by China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Company, the national fund established in September last year to support the domestic semiconductor industry’s expansion initiatives.