Broadcom says chip demand has hit bottom, but uncertain on recovery timing

Revenue from the company’s semiconductor solutions segment fell about 5%. (Reuters pic)

BANGALORE: Broadcom Inc said on Thursday demand for microchips had hit a bottom and would remain at current levels, a sign that an industry downturn may linger, and added that there was no clear indication as to when the recovery would take place.

The chip industry has been in a slowdown with research firm Gartner forecasting a 9.6% drop in global semiconductor revenue to US$429 billion in 2019.

US-China trade tensions, including tariffs on some products and the restrictions on sales to Huawei, have been pressuring chipmakers.

“…There is not much clarity or visibility yet, or certainty that any sharp recovery is around the corner,” Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan said on a post-earnings call.

He said the company is managing its chip business with an expectation that it will continue to operate in a “very low growth, uncertain macro environment” for the foreseeable future.

Shares of Broadcom fell 1.5% in extended trading.

Revenue from the company’s semiconductor solutions segment fell about 5% to US$4.35 billion from a year ago.

Total net revenue rose to US$5.52 billion in the third quarter ended Aug 4 from US$5.06 billion, but missed analysts average estimate of US$5.54 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The chipmaker also maintained its full-year 2019 revenue forecast of US$22.50 billion, saying that although the US-China trade conflict continues, it had not seen further deterioration in its business, both globally and in China.

“Our industry checks point to a modest demand recovery in the second half of 2019 but we think it is appropriate for Broadcom to provide a cautious outlook at this juncture due to the uncertainty caused by the trade friction,” Summit Insights Group analyst Kinngai Chan said.

Through a string of big-money acquisitions, the latest being a US$10.7 billion proposed deal to buy Symantec Corp’s enterprise security unit, Tan has propelled the chipmaker that was worth just a few billions to a market capitalization of about US$118 billion in the period that he has been at the helm.

After its move to buy peer Qualcomm Inc in what would have been the biggest-ever technology deal was blocked, Broadcom acquired software maker CA Technologies for US$19 billion to diversify its revenue stream.

Net income attributable to common stock fell to US$715 million, or US$1.71 per share, in the quarter, from US$1.2 billion, or US$2.71 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Broadcom earned a profit of US$5.16 per share, beating estimates of a profit of US$5.13 per share.