TSMC Hikes Outlook Yet Delays Spending as Uncertainty Looms

(Bloomberg) — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. raised its 2022 revenue forecast while warning it will trim spending on expansion by as much as 9% from initial projections, reflecting uncertainty about electronics demand in the face of a potential global recession.

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Chief Executive Officer C. C. Wei warned on Thursday it was too early to go into specifics about spending plans or the outlook for semiconductor demand in 2023 should customers delay purchases. But TSMC should still enjoy “a growth year,” the executive said.

The moves from Apple Inc.’s most important chipmaker reflect expectations that demand for everything from phones to cars may remain resilient in 2022, though mounting inflation and waning consumer sentiment may exert an as-yet uncertain impact going into 2023. TSMC’s role as the world’s predominant manufacturer of advanced semiconductors for iPhones and datacenters should likely cushion its profit margins, executives said.

“We expect our customers will start to take action to decrease their inventory level. A few quarters, at least into the first half of 2023, they’ll continue to do an inventory correction,” Wei told analysts on a conference call. “Our customers’ demand continues to exceed our ability to supply. We expect our capacity to be tight through the end of 2022.”

Click here for a rundown of TSMC’s earnings call.

The world’s largest contract chipmaker is now projecting sales growth in the mid-30% range, up from about 30% previously. It also projected revenue of $19.8 billion to $20.6 billion for the September quarter, beating estimates for roughly $18.5 billion.

But it also plans to delay capital spending, an indicator of its expectations for longer-term demand. TSMC said its capital expenditure should come in at the lower end of a previously targeted range of $40 billion to $44 billion, citing longer times for equipment delivery. Asked how much of that cut will make it into 2023, executives said it was too early to tell.

“Although TSMC’s sales growth outlook remain strong, it cannot disperse our worries that semiconductor or foundry industry growth may have already peaked,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Charles Shum said. “The company’s capex spending ‘push out’ plus downstream customers’ inventory correction actions are two strong signals.”

The Taiwanese giant stressed it will forge ahead with plans to build overseas plants, including an envisioned $12 billion Arizona base that the Trump administration hailed as a triumph in endeavors to bring advanced chipmaking back to America. But executives warned the costs had proven very high and TSMC needed to find ways to reduce that overhead, including through federal subsidies.

Lawmakers are currently debating a plan to infuse $52 billion of incentives for US chipmaking, an ambitious effort at enhancing research and development to counter China’s growing economic influence.

Read more: Biden Team, Top Democrat See Slimmer Bill Key to Chips Funding

On Thursday, TSMC booked NT$237 billion ($7.9 billion) in net income for the quarter ended June, surpassing the average estimate of NT$219.8 billion. Revenue jumped 44% to NT$534.1 billion in the second quarter, as previously reported. Its gross margin of 59.1% was the highest in 26 years, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Concerns persist about rising inventories in the $550 billion semiconductor industry and the longer-term impact of a potential global recession. TSMC’s shares are down more than 20% this year alongside a sector-wide selloff.

But Credit Suisse analysts including Randy Abrams said TSMC remained one of their top picks because of its market share gains and dominant position.

It has also benefited from its most important customer. Much will depend on how consumers take to Apple’s latest iPhone, expected to hit shelves before the year-end holiday season. On Thursday, Wei said he’s unconcerned about potential inventory buildups of high-end smartphones.

The Taiwanese firm also continues to ride the auto industry’s growing demand for semiconductors as cars become more digitized.

Read more: TSMC Sales Soar 44% in Another Sign of Resilient Tech Demand

(Updates with analyst’s comment in the 7th paragraph)

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