Earnings

TSMC bucks broader chip slump with 50% revenue surge, helped by Apple iPhone orders

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TSMC has bucked a slowdown in areas of the chip market in the face of rising prices, fears of a global recession and Covid disruptions in China.
Rafael Henrique | Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, on Friday reported a surge in revenue in November thanks in part to orders of semiconductors for high-end smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone.

The Taiwanese firm, which makes chips for other companies, said November revenue totaled 222.71 billion new Taiwan dollars ($7.27 billion), a 50.2% year-over-year rise.

TSMC makes chips for a wide array of companies, including the latest semiconductors for Apple and Qualcomm as well as SoftBank-owned Arm. The company has bucked a slowdown in areas of the chip market in the face of rising prices, fears of a global recession and Covid disruptions in China.

The November revenue report puts TSMC on track to hit its previously stated fourth quarter guidance of between $19.9 billion and $20.7 billion. In October and November, TSMC’s revenue totaled around $14.1 billion.

“TSMC’s Oct/Nov revenues are on track comparing to what the management guided 2 months ago, despite significant business slowdowns in many other semi names,” Dale Gai, semiconductor analyst at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC via email.

Gai said “high-end smartphones” such as the A16 chip for Apple’s iPhone and the latest semiconductor from Qualcomm contributed to the “majority of its (TSMC’s) seasonal strength.”

The analyst said some chips for so-called high-performance computing also contributed to the strong set of numbers.

TSMC is arguably the the world’s most important semiconductor manufacturer. It has a huge set of clients that rely on it for the most cutting-edge chips.

It has also been caught up in the middle of the U.S.-China tech battle over chips. The United States has sought to cut China off from critical chips and tools while trying to reshore semiconductor production.

Earlier this week, TSMC announced the opening of a second chip plant in Arizona, upping its investment in the state from $12 billion to $40 billion. President Joe Biden was at the event where the investment was announced, underscoring the critical role that TSMC will play in the American semiconductor sector.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also attended the event and said the iPhone maker would buy TSMC’s U.S.-made chips.

While TSMC’s November revenue is getting a boost from Apple, analysts are worried about weaker orders next year.

“The real test for the company will be” in the first half of 2023, said Sze Ho Ng, analyst at investment bank China Renaissance.

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