* CEO says revenues to return to pre-crises levels this year
* Expects 10-12 pct growth in global chip market in 2010
* Says company is still disadvantaged by strong euro
PARIS Jan 27- (Reuters) - Europe's top computer chip maker STMicroelectronics STM.PA forecast its revenue would return to pre-economic crisis levels this year despite being at a disadvantage to U.S. rivals due to the strong euro.
“There is overall an economic recovery that is becoming more global,” Chief Executive Carlo Bozotti said on a conference call on Wednesday, predicting the semiconductor market would grow 10 to 12 percent this year.
“We saw it very much starting in Asia, in China for example, already at the end of the second quarter,” said Bozotti.
“Now it’s more global, and very much driven by Western economies. Europe and America are catching back up to a more normal situation.”
STMicroelectronics on Tuesday posted better-than-expected sales and gross margins for the fourth quarter, but missed profit forecasts with a loss of 4 cents per share. The bottom line was hurt by restructuring charges. [ID:nN26117612]
The French-Italian chip maker, whose chips are used in everything from cars to mobile phones and DVD players, reported its full-year results after strong earnings from rivals Texas Instruments Inc TXN.N on Monday [ID:nN25194319] and Intel Corp INTC.O earlier in January. [ID:nN15228962]
The series of results confirm that a recovery is underway in the semiconductor sector as technology companies boost orders for chips after a long slump.
The question now is how fast chip demand will grow in the coming months, when it will peak, and whether it can be sustained over the year, according to analysts.
Texas Instrument predicted that demand in the first quarter would be better than usual, up 3 percent from the previous quarter. Sales are typically lower in the first few months of the year.
STMicroelectronics was more cautious, saying net revenue in the first quarter would decrease 7 to 13 percent from the fourth quarter.
“Today our order backlog is above the level we can serve, but we do not think this will continue,” said Bozotti, adding that there could be some “speculation” and over-ordering from clients.
In a note, UBS analyst Gareth Jenkins wrote that STMicroelectronics peers had given “more bullish guidance ... implying either conservatism on STMicro’s behalf or there are market share issues at play.”
On the impact of currency exchange rates, Bozotti repeated as he has in past quarters that export-oriented STMicroelectronics was at “a significant competitive disadvantage” to its rivals because of the strong euro. penalised by the level of the euro.”
He said the company had taken measures such as currency hedging and cost cuts to blunt the impact.
“We are now ready to operate with a dollar at 1.50 euros but we do not like it at all,” he said.
Shares in STMicroelectronics were down 0.8 percent at 6.05 euros at 1039 GMT while the DJ Technology Index .SX8P was down 0.4 percent. (Additional reporting by Marie Mawad; editing by Karen Foster)
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