Makers of the world's top tech gadgets post record 2005

A group of Taiwanese companies responsible for producing some of the world's top tech products, from Xbox 360s to iPods, posted record high sales last year.

A group of Taiwanese companies responsible for producing some of the world's top technology products, from Microsoft's Xbox 360 game consoles to Apple's iPod music players and third generation (3G) mobile phones, closed out a banner 2005 with record high sales for the year.

The group of companies, which represent a microcosm of the global IT industry, produce components or entire systems of the world's hottest products.

Take Inventec Appliances, for example. The Taiwanese company produces iPod music players on behalf of Apple, and just ended its best year ever in 2005 in terms of sales. In fact, anybody paying attention to its monthly sales figures, which Taiwanese companies have to report to the local stock exchange, might not have been surprised by the stellar performance iPod chalked up during the fourth quarter.

Apple's chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, told the annual Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco that the company sold 14 million iPods during the holiday season, compared to 4.5 million the same time a year earlier. The leap in sales showed up in Inventec Appliances record high November sales, which leaped to $NT17.05 billion ($US533.2 million) from just $NT10.04 billion in October.

November is normally the busiest month of the year for tech industry manufacturers in Asia, as they rush to fill last minute orders in time to ship them to stores in North America and Europe.

Inventec Appliances, which is just one of a few contract manufacturers making iPods in Asia, turned in full year 2005 sales of $NT115.2 billion ($US3.6 billion), up 52 per cent from $NT75.98 billion a year earlier, and a new historical high for the company.

Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world's largest contract electronics maker, was also busy during the holiday season. The company, which produces PlayStation game consoles for Sony as well as a slew of other devices and components including Nokia mobile phones, reported its sales grew 63 per cent in 2005 to $NT675.7 billion ($US21.13 billion) from $NT413.4 billion the previous year.

The sales increase was a new high for the company, and December proved to be the strongest month ever for Hon Hai, despite the fact that sales normally slow down from a peak in November. The company's December sales surged to $NT83.82 billion, up 75 per cent compared to the same time a year earlier, beating Hon Hai's previous record high of $NT78.1 billion from October.

A Taiwanese company building the hottest game console of the holiday season also scored last year. Wistron, one of three assemblers Microsoft tapped to build its Xbox 360 game consoles reported its 2005 sales hit $NT155.02 billion ($US4.85 billion), up 33 per cent from its previous high of $NT116.6 billion a year earlier.

In LCD screens, one of the products picked to be a top seller this year thanks to strong LCD-TV sales, companies in Taiwan also excelled. AU Optronics, the third biggest LCD panel maker in the world, reported record high monthly sales during the last few months of the year, capping the performance off with an all-time high $NT24.59 billion ($US769.1 million) in December.

The company also hit a new full year record of $NT217.4 billion (US$6.80 billion), up 29 per cent over $NT168.1 billion in 2004.

AU's main rival in Taiwan, Chi Mei Optoelectronics, the globe's number four LCD panel producer, also sold a record amount of LCD screens during the month of December to hit its own monthly sales high, $NT18.89 billion, capping off an all-time full year record of $NT152.8 billion for the company.

Taiwanese producers didn't lag in 3G mobile phones, either. The island's top producer of the handsets, High Tech Computer, beat out its own yearly record due to huge year for mobile phones in 2005. The company's sales nearly doubled from a year earlier to $NT72.77 billion ($US2.28 billion), compared with $NT36.41 billion in 2004.

It was a great year for notebook computers that pushed Acer to its best year ever. The world's fourth largest computer company, which has lauded the laptop market all year as its main growth driver, reported its full year 2005 sales reached a record high $NT316.8 billion ($US9.91 billion), up 41 per cent compared to the previous year. Acer has already set a 2006 sales target of $NT400 billion.

Finally, a company few users ever get to know but which custom-builds chips used in almost every device imaginable, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) reported its full year sales rose slightly to a new high of $NT264.4 billion from $NT256.0 billion in 2004.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service

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