ASM (ASMI) +7% on news that founder and largest shareholder, Arthur del Prado could finally be open to splitting the company's "front-end" and "back-end" interests. The front end manufactures machines for turning silicon wafers into chips; ASM also owns a 52% stake in the world's largest maker of chip-assembly and packaging equipment.
Lam Research's (LRCX -3.7%) proposed acquisition (I, II) of Novellus (NVLS +21.1%) is giving a lift to several of the companies' peers, as investors hope the merger of the third and fourth largest U.S. chip equipment makers will spur further consolidation in the downtrodden industry. UTEK +5.8%. CYMI +4.1%. NANO +3.7%. KLIC +4.6%. ASMI +3.3%. AIXG +3.5%. MKSI +3.2%.
Chip gear maker ASML Holding (ASML) is -4.4%, even after beating Q4 revenue and earnings estimates. Piper Jaffray maintains its Overweight rating, and notes ASML stands to benefit from an investment boost in lithograpy tools. Intel (INTC -0.4%) is raising capital spending 75% to $9B in 2011, and ASML is expected to profit.
Semiconductor capital equipment supplier ASM Intl. (ASMI +2.6%) hits a new 52-week high, exceeding its prior $39.47/share peak. Given ASMI's surge, Goldman Sachs downgrades it to Sell, noting 2011 will be a peak year for spending on semiconductor manufacturing and assembly gear.
Today's semiconductor surge pushes not just high-profile chipmakers like Broadcom (BRCM +2.7%) and Nvidia (NVDA +1.5%) to new 52-week highs, but at least 15 others, as well. They include both chip manufacturers and component and gear suppliers, such as Atmel (ATML +0.4%) and Applied Materials (AMAT +7.4%).
Intel's (INTC -0.8%) strong Q4 is boosting semiconductor gear supplier Applied Materials (AMAT), which is +4.9%. Analysts are upbeat about the chip equipment supplier segment overall. Other companies in the sector include ASM Lithography (ASML +7.2%), Novellus (NVLS +7.6%) and ASM Intl (ASMI +5.4%).