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Taiwan's AU Back to Q1 Profit on Strong LCD Demand

Taiwan's AU Optronics, the world's No.3 LCD maker, said on Tuesday it returned to profit in the first quarter from a year-ago loss as strong demand for flat-screen TVs lifted prices for its displays.

The profit was well ahead of market expectations but fell short of a record in the fourth quarter, when consumers bought more computers and flat-screen TVs that use liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in the run-up to Christmas.

Analysts are still betting on a robust 2008 as the Beijing Olympic Games in August fuel demand for LCD TVs, boding well for AU, Chi Mei Optoelectronics and two bigger Korean rivals, LG Display and Samsung Electronics.

AU, which supplies LCDs to top PC sellers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard and some TV brands, booked January-March net profit of T$26.985 billion ($892 million), the company said in a statement.

That was a swing from the year-ago loss of T$5.11 billion but down from T$33.09 billion AU earned in the previous three months.

AU had been expected to make a first-quarter net profit of T$15.22 billion, according to the latest consensus forecast from 11 analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

AU's Taipei-listed shares fell 17 percent in the first quarter, while Taiwan's main TAIEX index was almost flat.

Shares in smaller local rival Chi Mei, whose quarterly earnings are due on April 29, dropped 12 percent during the same period.

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