Tech bellwether ASML optimistic over recovery

ASML, the world’s largest supplier of computer chipmaking equipment, beat market expectations yesterday following booming demand for tablets and smartphones.

The Dutch firm, widely seen as a barometer of the global technology sector since it manufactures the machinery used to make processors and graphics cards, posted first-quarter sales of €892bn (£764bn).

This was down 28 per cent year-on-year, but still above the expected €874bn for the quarter, and ASML predicted a recovery in the second quarter of 2013. The news suggests that the likes of Intel and Samsung, which are investors in the company, are seeing increased demand for their microchips.

ASML also announced that finance chief Peter Wennink will take over as chief executive on 1 July, succeeding Eric Meurice, whose contract ends this year. Meurice steps down from the position that he has held for eight years, in which time he has doubled revenues and increased its share price five-fold.

A combination of better-than-expected trading and a €1bn share buyback programme sent shares rising as much as seven per cent yesterday before they closed 2.5 per cent up.

ASML had disappointed technology investors earlier in the year when it said the end of 2012 had seen a significant slowdown in orders and that the new year would be subdued.

On Tuesday night Intel, a major ASML customer, had posted a fall in revenues, owing to a global slump in PC sales. Wennink said yesterday that ASML’s sales decline had been partially down to lower PC shipments, but said the outlook was rosy as chipmakers invest in new technology.