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Apple supplier Foxconn's Q1 profit dives below estimates

Shares fall 3% despite US$1.2 billion capital reduction pledge to boost shareholder returns


A DIVE in quarterly profit at Taiwan's Foxconn to below analyst estimates saw shares of the Apple supplier fall 3 per cent on Tuesday, even after a pledge to boost shareholder returns with a US$1.2 billion capital reduction.

The world's largest contract electronics maker reported late on Monday a 14.5 per cent decline in first-quarter net profit to NT$24.08 billion (S$1.07 billion), missing the NT$28.71 billion average of nine analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The extent of the drop contrasted with resilient sales of Apple's popular iPhone in a climate of waning demand. Foxconn assembles the bulk of Apple products including iPhones.

Foxconn, formally Hon Hai Precision Industry, did not elaborate on its earnings. Analysts said a stronger local dollar and higher marketing costs may have contributed to the decline.

"We think higher opex (operating expense) could be a new norm for Hon Hai, due to its business diversification," Nomura analysts said in a report.

They said higher spending on marketing for new customers as well as research-and-development in networking, cloud computing, television and smartphones likely squeezed its operating profit margin to 2.4 per cent, below Nomura's 3.0 per cent forecast.

Chief executive Terry Gou has been reducing dependence on Apple through diversification. In 2016, it bought control of Japanese electronics and display panel maker Sharp.

In March, a Foxconn unit said it would buy US consumer electronics maker Belkin International Inc for US$866 million.

Another unit, which makes industrial robots and equipment for cloud computing, plans to list in Shanghai to raise capital for fifth-generation (5G) network-related projects.

Foxconn shares have underperformed this year - falling around 10 per cent versus the broader market's 2.8 per cent gain - partly due to investors questioning its reliance on Apple and the prospect of slowing smartphone sales growth.

The stock fell as much as 3.4 per cent on Tuesday, reversing gains of as much as 6.4 per cent on Monday. That rise was buoyed by a plan announced late on Friday to cut equity capital by 20 per cent, or NT$34.7 billion, to boost shareholder returns.

Foxconn also said it would sell up to NT$27 billion in bonds to refinance debt and replenish working capital.

"We think Hon Hai's proposal of cash capital reduction would increase future EPS (earnings per share), but shareholders' cash returns would actually be unchanged, given the reduced cash dividend," Nomura analysts said.

Fellow Apple supplier Japan Display reported a record annual net loss of US$2.25 billion on Tuesday, as its US client shifted to rival panel maker Samsung Electronics for iPhone X screens. REUTERS

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