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By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) hiked its revenue outlook after logging record quarterly profit, and painted a bullish picture of demand picking up over the next two years as advanced technologies are adopted more widely.
The chip sector has been one of the rare industries benefiting from the coronavirus pandemic with more people investing in premium devices as they spend longer hours at home and as corporations seek to add more bandwidth for remote workers.
The world's largest contract chipmaker said it now expects 2020 revenue to jump more than 30%, up from an earlier forecast of more than 20% and marking the second quarter in a row it has lifted its outlook.
It predicted fourth-quarter revenue of between $12.4 billion and $12.7 billion, compared with $10.4 billion booked in the same quarter a year ago.
"COVID has accelerated the digital transformation," Chief Executive C.C. Wei told an online earnings briefing, adding that robust demand for smartphones and other electronics as well as 5G technologies had spurred orders for high-end chips.
Wei said TSMC's clients were currently holding inventories at higher than historical levels due to uncertainties amid the pandemic and geopolitical tensions. Even so the company expects demand to pick up in 2021 and 2022, offsetting any inventory correction.
"We don't worry too much about it," he said.
Wei emphasised that TSMC's position as the industry leader in advanced chips would hold it in good stead and that it is expected to outperform global foundry growth this year.
In July-September, TSMC's net profit surged 36% to a record T$137.3 billion ($4.8 billion), well ahead of market expectations for T$124.9 billion. Revenue handily beat the company's own estimates, climbing 29.2% to $12.1 billion.
TSMC's advanced chips are used in high-end smartphones such as Apple's newly unveiled 5G iPhone 12 as well as in telecommunications technology and artificial intelligence.
TSMC expects to see 5G-enabled devices quickly gain widespread popularity, predicting the uptake for 5G would be faster than for 4G.
"All countries and regions are preparing to build up (5G) infrastructure right now...a lot of 5G phones will be introduced and that created a higher percentage penetration rate," Wei said.
This demand has helped TSMC offset a loss of orders from Huawei after the U.S. imposed extensive restrictions on sales to the Chinese telecommunications giant.
A U.S. proposal to also put Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) on the same trade blacklist has caused some of the Chinese chipmaker's clients to preemptively switch over to its Taiwanese rival, analysts have said.
TSMC declined to comment on reports it had applied for a U.S. licence to ship some products to Huawei. Asked about the implications of restrictions on SMIC, executives just said they were evaluating the impact on the semiconductor market.
Shares of TSMC have jumped about 36% so far this year, giving it a market value of $414 billion.
($1 = 28.7260 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)