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For fiscal year 2003, International Rectifier posted a net loss of $89.6 million, or $1.40 per share after restructuring charges, on sales of $864.4 million. This compares with a net income of $48.7 million, or 75 cents per share on revenue of $720.2 million in the prior fiscal year.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) today slightly raised its chip forecast for the third quarter of 2003, although the trade group has not altered its 10.1% growth prediction for 2003.

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After flat growth in the second quarter of 2003, the semiconductor industry is expected to show 5% to 8% growth in the third period of this year, said Doug Andrey, principal industry analyst for the SIA, San Jose. That figure is 0.5% to 1% higher than the original projection, Andrey said.

We think the third quarter will be better than expected,” he said. We are more optimistic about the third quarter.”

The slightly improved forecast reflects falling chip inventories and higher fab utilization rates for leading-edge capacity. Demand for flash memories, logic, and optoelectronics remains robust, but digital signal processors (DSPs), DRAMs, and microprocessors fell into negative territory during the second quarter.

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The SIA, meanwhile, is still projecting 10.1% growth for 2003. The trade group is not changing its forecast for the year, due to lack of visibility in the fourth quarter, Andrey said during a conference call.

Still, the projection for the third quarter indicates that the market is improving. Worldwide sales of semiconductors were $12.54 billion in June, up a mere 0.3% from $12.50 billion in May 2003, and up 10.4% from $11.35 billion in June 2002, according to Global Sales Report (GSR) figures released by the SIA. The SIA added that second quarter chip sales of $37.6 billion were up 3.2% from $36.4 billion in the year's first quarter, and up 10.4% from the $34.1 billion recorded in the second quarter of 2002.

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The semiconductor industry is slowly returning to health, as excess chip inventories have become negligible,” Andrey said. Chip inventories fell from $300 million in the first quarter of 2003, to $150 million in the second quarter, according to iSuppli Corp.

This compares to a whopping $2.5 billion in terms of excess chip inventories during the second quarter of 2002, according to the El Segundo-based research firm. Back in the first quarter of 2001, the channels had some $8 billion in excess inventories, according to the report.

Further, the EC is seeking to impose disclosure obligations that would allow Microsoft's competitors in low-end server software to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers.” Mandated interoperability would ensure that competing server operating platforms could become full participants in such a network. This includes requirements that platforms built by competitors such as IBM and Sun can do the same user authentications as servers running Microsoft software, for example.

Microsoft will have a last opportunity to comment before the Commission concludes the case,” Mario Monti, the EC's competition commissioner, said in a statement last week. The Redmond, Wash., company will have a month to prepare its response. The EC is expected to deliver its final ruling early next year. We are determined to ensure that the final outcome of this case is to the benefit of innovation and consumers alike,” Monti said.

A spokeswoman said Microsoft is examining the contents of the EC statement thoroughly. We will not speculate on possible outcomes or the suggested remedies of the Commission,” she said, but will continue to focus our efforts on responding to the Commission's concerns.”

The unbundling remedy, if successful, could establish an important precedent, said Thomas Vinje, a Brussels-based lawyer representing the Computer and Communications Industry Association, opening the door for other challenges to Microsoft's practice of tucking software-such as Instant Messenger, Outlook and Movie Maker-into its Windows OS.

The proposed remedies for interoperability and bundling issues are . . . designed to change the competitive landscape,” Vinje said. If you eliminate the weapon of bundling from Microsoft's arsenal of antitrust behaviors,” an enforcer like the EC could bring meaningful changes to the industry, he said.

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Hellmold added that a few customers have even been willing to pay more than the market price to get delivery of certain scarce NAND parts.

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