* Q4 operating profit 55 bln won vs 123 bln won fcast
* Q1 profit seen rebounding on PC chip demand-analysts
* Weaker orders from Apple seen capping earnings upside
By Miyoung Kim
SEOUL, Jan 30 South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix
Inc returned to a quarterly profit on Wednesday on
demand from mobile device makers such as Apple Inc, but
it fell far short of forecasts on weak sales of computer chips
and a strong won.
Hynix's earnings prospects have brightened this year after
prices of computer memory chips jumped 30 percent from December,
as PC makers prepare for China's lunar new year holiday sales
and as supply tightens, with chip makers curtailing computer
chip output in favour of more chips for mobile devices.
But that outlook is now less upbeat than it once was as many
analysts now believe Apple will cut its orders due to weak
demand for iPhones, while the South Korean currency has also
gained, which reduces the value of earnings made abroad when
they are repatriated.
Hynix, which competes with bigger rival Samsung Electronics
, Japan's Toshiba Corp and U.S.-based Micron
Technology, reported 55 billion won ($50 million) in
October-December operating profit, versus a 106 billion won loss
a year earlier.
The result, which comes after a small loss in the previous
quarter, missed an average forecast of 123 billion won profit
from 23 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
It was also below a 93 billion won profit forecast by
Thomson Reuters StarMine's SmartEstimate, which places more
emphasis on timely projections from the most accurate analysts.
Recent strength in the South Korean currency and disappointing
sales of Apple's iPhone during the year-end holiday season were
behind the lower forecasts in the SmartEstimate.
Shares in Hynix have risen 20 percent over the past six
months but the stock lost 10 percent since Jan. 14 on fears that
Apple will cut orders.
Apple became Hynix's largest customer last year and
generates around 30 percent of the South Korean firm's revenue,
according to analysts. The Cupertino California-based firm has
widened its supplier base and moved away from its key supplier
and rival Samsung.
Fears that demand for the iPhone and the iPad could be
slowing were triggered by news of possible production cutbacks
by some component suppliers in Asia, and then were exacerbated
after Apple reported weaker-than-expected iPhone sales in its
quarterly earnings last week.