European chipmaker STMicro expects return to profit in 2014

Reuters

* STMicro aims to outperform market in 2014 - CEO

* Sees drop in first-quarter revenue

* Says orders jumped 20 pct between Q3 and Q4

By Gwénaëlle Barzic

PARIS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - European chipmaker STMicroelectronics forecast a return to profit in 2014 after suffering two years of losses, hit by a decline in orders from phone maker Nokia.

The Franco-Italian company, whose chips are used in cars, computers and mobile phones, posted a ninth straight quarterly loss but said it expects this year to outperform market growth forecasts, currently around 4.2 percent.

It said its performance would be boosted by an improved order book, cost cuts and having exited its loss-making ST-Ericsson joint-venture with telecom network gear maker Ericsson last year.

"We are definitely positive on generating a profit in the fiscal year 2014," Chief Financial Officer Carlo Ferro told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.

Orders jumped 20 percent between the third and fourth quarter of 2013, Chief Executive Carlo Bozotti said.

STMicro is the eighth-largest semiconductor maker by global sales but has lost ground to rivals like Qualcomm, Intel and Samsung in recent years because of its higher cost base and difficulties suffered by Nokia, once its largest customer.

In the past year, it has particularly focused on cars, high-end smartphones and motion sensors but that move has yet to pay off in terms of profit.

For the fourth quarter of 2013, the company reported an operating loss of $11 million on revenue of $2.01 billion, broadly in line with analysts' forecasts. That compared with a loss of $730 million on revenue of $2.16 billion in the same period of 2012.

It said it expected 2014 first-quarter revenue to fall by about 9.5 percent on a quarterly basis, plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, due to its exit from the ST-Ericsson joint-venture.

The firm's share price was up 1.8 percent at 5.75 euros at 1400 GMT, while Europe's Stoxx 600 technology index was flat.

STMicroelectronics shares climbed 8.8 percent last year, while Europe's Stoxx 600 technology index rose 27 percent. The company exited France's CAC 40 index of leading blue-chips in December.

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