* Q1 results beat analysts forecasts
* To launch share buyback of up to 1.0 bln euro
* Peter Wennink to succeed Eric Meurice as CEO in July
* Wennink to remain interim CFO until successor appointed
* Shares jump 9 pct
By Sara Webb
AMSTERDAM, April 17 ASML, the world's
biggest supplier of computer chip-making equipment, has named
finance chief Peter Wennink as CEO, and pledged to stick to its
strategy to develop technology used to make the next generations
of smartphones and tablets.
Wennink, a 55-year-old Dutchman who has been chief financial
officer since 1999, will succeed Eric Meurice, a 56-year-old
Frenchman and former Dell Computer executive, as CEO in July.
Meurice will become chairman and advisor to the new management.
In the past year, Meurice and Wennink have pulled off two
significant deals that brought funding and expertise for ASML's
research and development of the next generation of equipment.
"We have a clear roadmap of what to do. We're not going to
make significant changes to the strategy and the roadmap of the
company," Wennink said in a video interview coinciding with the
release of better-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday.
ASML, considered a barometer for the tech sector, forecast a
recovery in sales to around 1.1 billion euros ($1.44 billion) as
demand for hot consumer gadgets, such as smartphones and tablet
computers, grows at the expense of heavier laptop computers.
As expected, ASML also announced a new share buy-back
programme of up to 1 billion euros, equivalent to about 5
percent of its stock market value.
Shares in the company, which competes with Japanese groups
Canon and Nikon, surged as much as 9 percent
to the highest level since early March.
The appointment of Wennink as CEO was expected, analysts
said, and showed the firm would continue to focus on its
existing strategy and deliver strong returns to investors.
"This was the most likely scenario," said Pierre Ferragu,
analyst at Bernstein Research.
"He (Wennink) has helped put them in the position they are
in today. He has helped design a company that controls costs
extremely well and outspent competitors on R&D as a result. This
makes me confident investors will share in the benefits of
strong returns going forward."
The quest to produce ever smaller, more efficient, more
powerful chips pushed ASML into two deals last year.
It agreed to buy Cymer Inc, a supplier of
lithography light sources used to make chips, in order to speed
up the development of a new manufacturing technique which uses
EUV, or extreme ultraviolet light, to produce smaller chips.
It also won funding from three big customers - Intel Corp
, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and
Samsung Electronics - for the research and
development of EUV technology and of equipment for making larger
The production of wafers with a 450 mm diameter, compared
with 300 mm now, allows more chips per wafer to be cut and will
help reduce costs by as much as 30-40 percent.
Fast-tracking the development of such technology not only
cements ASML's position as the market leader ahead of Nikon, but
is also expected to significantly reduce production costs.
ASML reported better-than-expected first-quarter net profit
of 96 million euros on sales of 892 billion euros, but the
quarterly revenue figure was the lowest in three years.
Personal computer sales plunged 14 percent in the first
three months of the year, the biggest decline in two decades of
keeping records, as tablets continue to gain in popularity.
IT research firm Gartner, Inc said earlier this month it
expects worldwide shipments of personal computers, tablets and
mobile phones to rise 9 percent this year as strong growth in
smartphones and tablet devices more than offsets an expected
decline in PCs.