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ASML beats earnings forecasts, sees 2023 growth amid China worries

FILE PHOTO: ASML Holding logo is seen at company's headquarters in Eindhoven

By Toby Sterling

VELDHOVEN, Netherlands (Reuters) -ASML Holding NV, Europe's largest technology company, beat fourth-quarter earnings forecasts on Wednesday and forecast a rise more than 25% in 2023 sales despite possible new curbs on its exports to China.

The maker of equipment to produce semiconductors has struggled to meet demand as top customers TSMC, Samsung and Intel are all engaged in major expansions.

It said its order backlog had grown to a record 40 billion euros ($43.62 billion) at the end of the year.

Credit Suisse analysts said the earnings may be "taken negatively" by the market, given recent rallies in the company's share price, up 22% in January and up 55% from October lows.

"However, ASML’s structural prospects remain unchanged," they said in a note.

Shares were down 1.7% at 605.40 euros at 0744 GMT.

CEO Peter Wennink said that although the economic outlook for 2023 is clouded by worries over the economy and growing semiconductor inventories, customers also see conditions improving toward the end of the year and China's economy recovering after the end of COVID-19 curbs.

"That means that the demand is still higher than what we can make," he said.

CHINAThe numbers come a week after U.S. President Joe Biden and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte discussed possible new export restrictions on some of ASML's sales to customers in China due to security concerns.

Wennink currently said "nothing has changed" regarding ASML's exports to China despite the United States imposing new export restrictions on its own companies in October.

""We just have to wait for the governments and the politicians to keep talking and come to a reasonable solution (on possible restrictions)," Wennink said.

"We can still ship DUV (older) ... tools" to mainland China, Wennink said.

The company had China sales worth 2.16 billion euros in 2022 accounting for 14% of its total revenue. It was the firm's third biggest market behind Taiwan and South Korea.

Veldhoven, Netherlands-based ASML reported fourth-quarter net profit of 1.82 billion euros, up from 1.77 billion a year earlier, on revenue of 6.43 billion euros.

That beat analyst forecasts for a net profit of 1.70 billion euros on sales of 6.38 billion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

($1 = 0.9169 euros)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by Christopher Cushing and Jason Neely)