* Q4 revenue $134.6 mln vs $147.6 mln a year ago
* Adjusted net profit $19 mln vs $22 mln
* Sees Q1 revenue $130-$140 mln
By Ari Rabinovitch
JERUSALEM, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Israeli chipmaker TowerJazz said its sales fell in the fourth quarter, but a joint venture with Panasonic would help it reach a goal of $1 billion of recurring annual revenue by the first quarter of next year.
The sales drop stemmed from a decrease in revenue expected under a three-year contract with Micron Technologies, which sold its plant in Japan to TowerJazz in 2011.
TowerJazz has lost money for years following heavy investment in a second chip plant in Israel, but Chief Executive Russell Ellwanger said he expected “major progress” this year towards achieving a net profit under local accounting rules.
Revenue in the fourth quarter fell to $134.6 million from $147.6 million a year earlier, but was up 20 percent compared with the third quarter. Excluding one-time items, it had a net profit of $19 million in the quarter, down from $22 million in the last three months of 2012.
Ellwanger said the joint venture with Panasonic, announced last month and on target for closure in April, would “more than make up for anything that is decreased from Micron”.
The Israeli maker of chips for smartphones, battery chargers and AC/DC adapters will have a 51 percent stake in the venture, which will see Panasonic transfer three of its factories for the production of semiconductors for cars and other products.
TowerJazz’s revenue is expected to increase by about $400 million a year from the venture, and Ellwanger said he expected to achieve an annual revenue run rate of $900 million by the second quarter and a $1 billion run rate by the end of 2014 or the start of 2015.
TowerJazz is part of a consortium, along with India’s Jaiprakash Associates and IBM, that received cabinet approval this month to build a semiconductor wafer plant near New Delhi at a cost of 343.99 billion Indian rupees ($5.55 billion).
Ellwanger said revenue from the project in India, if it progresses as planned, was likely to start flowing in 2015.
TowerJazz’s net loss in the fourth quarter reached $29.8 million under generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP).
“If we don’t achieve (a profit) this year, we’ll certainly see major progress towards it within this year,” Ellwanger said. “If we post the joint venture, post some consolidations that we maybe will do, there is potential that we could be seeing it in the end of this year.” ($1 = 62.0150 Indian rupees) (Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)