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Taiwan's UMC offers bullish outlook on strong chip demand

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Demand for semiconductors will outstrip supply at least until 2023 (UMC photo)

Demand for semiconductors will outstrip supply at least until 2023 (UMC photo)

TAIPEI, April 27 (Reuters) - Taiwan chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp offered a bullish outlook for this year and next on Wednesday, saying it was still having problems meeting customer demand even as notebooks and smartphones were showing some weakness.

UMC (2303.TW), whose clients include Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and Germany's Infineon (IFXGn.DE), has like other chipmakers benefited from a global shortage of semiconductors that have filled its order books.

Co-president Jason Wang told an earnings call that this year it remained a challenge to meet demand.

While the lockdown in Shanghai and its environs to control COVID-19 had had "some effect" on demand, overall strong demand for auto chips, industrial servers and networking segments had offset softness in smartphones, note books and personal computers, he added.

"For the overall 2022, it still remains a challenge for us to meet the aggregate demand from our customers," Wang said, as UMC reported a 34.7% on-year jump in first-quarter revenue to T$63.42 billion ($2.16 billion).

"We are still seriously undersupplied to our customers."

Gross profit rose 19% quarter-on-quarter and 120% year-on-year to T$27.5 billion. Its gross margin was 43.4%, and operating margin 35.2%.

Larger competitor TSMC (2330.TW) has forecast an up to 37% jump in current-quarter sales and said it expects chip capacity to remain very tight this year, amid a global crunch that has kept order books full and allowed chipmakers to charge premium prices. read more

The shortage has forced some automakers and electronics manufacturers to cut production.

UMC said in 2021 it would spend T$100 billion ($3.40 billion) over the next three years to expand capacity and would guarantee supplies and prices to its clients as part of the plan. read more

Wang said there were problems in the supply chain, including shortages of components and labour, and equipment delays, which means some capacity expansion may not come online as scheduled.

But, looking ahead to next year, he said the company was "comfortable about our 2023 regardless of the supply dynamics".

Shares of UMC have fallen about 32% so far this year, giving the firm a market value of $18.9 billion. The stock closed down 2.95% on Wednesday, compared with a 2.1% drop for the benchmark index (.TWII)