UPDATE 1-Tech firm IQE signals strong start to year as losses narrow

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March 25 (Reuters) - British technology firm IQE Plc on Thursday posted a smaller operating loss for 2020 and said sales at the start of the current year were quite robust, driven by demand for 5G mobile handsets.

The company, which makes semiconductor wafers for chips used in Apple Inc products, said revenue for its wireless Gallium arsenide (GaAs) epiwafers were strong as more products were using the product.

“In addition, demand for 3D sensing, advanced sensing applications and communications products continues to remain positive,” the company said.

Technology firms globally have benefited from the work-and-study-from-home trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people rushed to buy laptops, tablets and other equipment.

IQE said it expects revenue and adjusted core earnings in the first half of 2021 to be similar to the year-ago period on a constant currency basis, adding that its global sites did not face any production interruptions during the health crisis.

The UK-based company reported a full-year operating loss of 5.5 million pounds ($7.52 million), compared with a loss of 18.8 million pounds a year-ago. Proceeds from a legal settlement in its favour, partially offset higher costs.

On an adjusted basis, IQE recorded an operating profit of 5.4 million pounds.

The company also said the search for a new chief executive is ongoing after founder Drew Nelson said last year he would step down from the top role. ($1 = 0.7313 pounds) (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Bernard Orr)