ASM Pacific Technology, the world's second-largest supplier of semiconductor assembly equipment, will probably see a fall in turnover and net profit this year, as the industry braces for a decline. After announcing the company's record turnover and profit for last year, managing director Patrick Lam See-pong said the probability on the downside was higher than that on the upside for this year's turnover and net profit compared with last year's. The company reported a 327 per cent growth in net profit to HK$1.08 billion for last year; turnover rose 111 per cent to HK$3.98 billion. It was in line with the Global Estimates Directories' market consensus forecast of HK$1.07 billion. Mr Lam cited industry forecaster VLSI Research's February prediction that the industry is expected to see a 7.8 per cent year-on-year decline in total value of equipment to be sold this year, to about US$3.07 billion. This compared with VLSI's forecast last month of 3.3 per cent growth for this year, from last year's US$3.33 billion. Announcing the company's first-half results last July, Mr Lam quoted VLSI's projection that the industry's worldwide output would grow 56.6 per cent this year. 'It is very difficult to predict this year's situation,' Mr Lam said. 'It has a lot of do with the prospects of the US economy.' He said the slowdown in orders started in the fourth quarter last year, with ASM recording a 20 per cent slump in orders compared with the third quarter, in line with the overall industry's fall. The company's book-to-bill ratio (order value divided by shipment value) is less than one at present, reflecting the depletion of orders on hand. Uncompleted orders amounted to US$120 million at the end of last year, compared with a five-month backlog of US$180 million last June. UBS Warburg analyst Peter Chu said he expected the book-to-bill ratio to remain under one for much of the first half, but the battered share price, which has halved in the past six months, has probably seen its worst. The company plans to spend US$25 million on a machine and facilities upgrade, down from US$40 million last year.