Applied Materials first-quarter results, current-quarter forecast beat on chip demand

FILE PHOTO: Applied Materials’ new corporate signage photo in Santa Clara, California, U.S. is shown in this image released on August 22, 2016. Applied Materials/Handout via REUTERS

By Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) - Applied Materials Inc reported first-quarter profit and revenue above Wall Street estimates as the world's largest semiconductor equipment maker benefited from higher demand for flat panel displays and chips used in electronic items.

Share of the company rose 2.2 percent to $53.11 in after-market trading on Wednesday after its revenue and profit forecasts for the current quarter also came in above market expectations.

Sales from its semiconductor business, its largest, jumped 32 percent to $2.84 billion in the quarter.

The company's results, seen as a yardstick for the semiconductor industry, has been benefiting from higher demand for 3D NAND memory chips from smartphone makers and the shift to organic light-emitting diode technology for displays.

Sales from its display business — which makes flat panel screens for televisions, PCs and smartphones — rose 7.8 percent to $455 million.

While Applied Materials has benefited from a surge in sales of smartphones, it is also set to cash in on the rise of new technologies such as AI, big data, machine learning, augmented reality and autonomous driving.

"We see sustainable strength in our markets as new demand drivers, including IoT, Big Data and AI, layer on top of traditional computing and mobility," Chief Executive Gary Dickerson said on a post-earnings call.

The company said it also approved a $6 billion share repurchase plan, an increment to $2.8 billion remaining in the previously approved authorization, while also doubling its quarterly cash dividend to 20 cents per share.

Applied Materials said second-quarter revenue is expected to be between $4.35 billion and $4.55 billion and earnings per share in the range of $1.10 to $1.18. Analysts on average expected profit of $1.02 per share and revenue of $4.24 billion.

Net income fell to $135 million, or 13 cents per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 28, from $703 million, or 65 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company said it took a charge of $1 billion due to the recent changes in the U.S. tax law.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.06 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 98 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total net sales rose 28 percent to $4.20 billion in the quarter, above the Wall Street estimate of $4.12 billion.

(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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