DALLAS ( TheStreet) -- From Greece's ongoing fiscal farce to the U.S. government's debt crisis, this hasn't been the easiest of years for the global economy. As a result, many tech heavyweights (including even recession-buster IBM ( IBM)) have felt the pinch of tighter IT budgets, both in America and overseas. Fear not, though. Chip giant Texas Instruments ( TXN) thinks that, at least in the semiconductor space, things are starting to look up after a slowdown in IT spending.
"We're probably seeing early signs of a bottom starting to form," Kevin March, the company's CFO, told TheStreet. "For example, we saw our new order pattern drop sharply in July, then fall in August and September at a slower pace." March added that customer inventories of TI products appear healthy, which points to an improving spending climate. "They have what we would call levels consistent with their rate of production," he said. "They don't have excess inventory." As clouds of uncertainty gathered over the U.S. economy earlier this year, the semiconductor specialist had trimmed its third-quarter guidance in September, citing weakening demand for its products. TI, which counts Apple ( AAPL), Motorola ( MMI), LG and Samsung among its customers, eventually saw its revenue come in higher than expected but still below the seasonal average. Up-and-coming chip supplier TriQuint ( TQNT) agrees with March's assessment of the IT spending climate. "I think that we could be coming to the bottom," explained Ralph Quinsey, the TriQuint CEO. "This is based on feedback from customers with regard to getting their inventory back in control and healthier forecasts from the network side of our business." TriQuint's recent fiscal third-quarter results came in slightly better than the company's guidance, with mobile device revenue up 14% year over year. Revenue from components for optical networks and telecom base stations, though, dipped 3% over the same period. Like March, Quinsey told TheStreet that, even with the spending slowdown starting to bottom, it's tough to predict the upturn. " I am not sure when we're coming out," he said. No stranger to the vagaries of the economy, the semi sector has certainly felt the burn during previous IT spending slowdowns, although recent quarterly results are cause for optimism. AMD ( AMD), for example, swung to a profit in its third-quarter results, released last week, citing strong demand for its mobile processors.
Speaking during a conference call, CEO Rory Read also noted that AMD's server business was heading in "the right direction" with revenue climbing 27% sequentially. Additionally, TI rival Qualcomm ( QCOM) put out strong fourth-quarter numbers and guidance after market close on Wednesday, much to the delight of investors. Speaking during a conference call, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs pointed to the company's record $15 billion fiscal 2011 revenue and offered bullish outlook. "Looking forward, we expect strong revenue and earnings growth again in fiscal 2012," he said, citing, in particular, demand for smartphone chips running on CDMA telecom networks. "In the coming year, we expect continued healthy growth in CDMA-based device shipments despite the macroeconomic slowdown." No. 1 chipmaker Intel ( INTC) also delivered a blowout quarter recently, with sales jumping nearly 30% year over year. Although not a semiconductor company, wireless LAN specialist Meru Networks ( MERU) also sees signs of a bottom. "I would concur with what
Texas Instruments' CFO is saying," said Ihab Abu-Hakima, Meru's CEO, highlighting an emerging revenue opportunity. "What we see is the beginning of a big cycle transforming enterprise networks." Businesses, according to Abu Hakima, are spending money to assimilate employee iPads, smartphones and Google ( GOOG) Android tablet onto their corporate networks. "We're still in the early days, but we expect it to accelerate because there's no let up in the flood of devices coming onto the network," said the CEO, whose company put out record product and services revenue in its recent third-quarter results. Some Silicon Valley firms also have cited strong demand for their wares in key overseas markets, helping offset, for example, the economic woes hanging over Western Europe. "The one area that has been very strong, and a catalyst for growth, has been that emerging markets segment," explained a spokesman for a major component supplier, who asked not to be named. " Particularly Asia-Pacific and some of new market economies in Eastern Europe." Still, though, a question mark still hangs over IT spending for many companies. "I have seen conflicting information on whether we are entering a bottom," explained Bob Beauchamp, CEO of BMC Software ( BMC), which recently reported mixed quarterly results. "I have had two different customers in the same industry give me conflicting information on that in the last 45 days." -- Written by James Rogers in New York
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