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Audio company Audience sees fast growth, even with less Apple

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Audience Inc seems to be doing pretty well, even with less of Apple: the audio technology company forecast quarterly revenue well above Wall Street's expectations, helped by more business from Samsung and other smartphone makers.

Shares of Audience jumped 24 percent in after hours trading, after the company said Thursday that it expected revenue between $43 million and $46 million in the March quarter, versus analysts' average estimate of $31.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Audience, which went public in May 2012, saw its stock slump 58 percent in a single session last September on news that Apple Inc, to which it had been a supplier since 2008, would likely drop its noise-filtering technology in future iPhones, including the iPhone 5.

Its quarterly report underscored the increasing opportunity for Apple's suppliers to look to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and other mobile device makers to fuel their growth as the iPhone and iPad face stiffer competition.

"Most people bought this stock at the IPO because it was an Apple business. But there's life without Apple," said Jay Srivatsa, an analyst at Chardan Capital Markets.

Audience executives said that more business from Samsung and other smartphone makers would offset dwindling revenue from Apple as fewer and fewer older iPhones that use its technology are sold.

Audience's chief executive, Peter Santos, told Reuters that as growth in smartphone sales moderates, manufacturers would fight more for market share.

"This idea that things stay the way they are - that Apple has a dominant position - I think we're seeing early signs that that's not going to be a permanent situation," Santos said. "What they've done and continue to do is great, but the world is much bigger."

The amount of Audience's revenue that comes from Apple fell from 40 percent in the September quarter to 33 percent in the December quarter.

Chief Financial Officer Kevin Palatnik said Apple would continue to contribute about a third of Audience's revenue in the first quarter, and then decline further this year as Apple launches new devices.

SAMSUNG BOOST

Samsung accounts for more than half of revenue at the Mountain View, California company, which sells chips and licenses intellectual property that improve voice quality in mobile devices by filtering out background noise.

To be sure, even with the jump in Audience's shares following its results on Thursday, its stock price is still 20 percent lower than before it disclosed its loss of Apple's business.

Audience's technology is used in Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone, giving it a reasonable chance that it will also be used in future Samsung devices.

"Part of the reason Q1 is so good is they're potentially in the Galaxy S4 that's going to be launched in the April-May timeframe," said Srivatsa of Chardan Capital.

Audience's technology is not used in the iPhone 5, but it is used in two prior generations of the smartphone.

Apple sold a record 48 million iPhones in the December quarter, but its share of the overall market is expected to peak this year at 22 percent and become dependent on repeat business from loyal customers unless it accepts lower margins by making low-cost iPhones, according to ABI Research.

In the fourth quarter that ended in December, Audience posted revenue of $38.7 million, up from $18.0 million in the year-earlier period and beating analysts' expectations of $31.8 million. Quarterly net income was $3.1 million, or 14 cents per share, swinging from a net loss of $5.6 million, or $5.56 per share, a year earlier.

Audience's shares were 24 percent higher in extended trade after closing up 2.86 percent at $12.22.

(This story is refiled to correct figure to $38.7 million, not $38.7 billion, in 17th paragraph)

(Reporting By Noel Randewich; Editing by Carol Bishopric and Chris Gallagher)

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