* CEO says aims to be active player in semi M&A consolidation
* Sees 2015/16 revenue at 6.43-6.66 bln euros
* Q4 operating profit beats most optimistic expectation
* Shares jump as much as 13.5 pct to top sector index (Adds CEO comments on playing more active role in M&A)
By Harro Ten Wolde and Eric Auchard
FRANKFURT, Nov 26 (Reuters) - German chipmaker Infineon’s integration of its $3 billion acquisition of International Rectifier is running ahead of schedule, the company said on Thursday, helping it to report better than expected profits and leaving it free to consider its next move in a rapidly consolidating industry.
Strong fourth-quarter results and comments by executives about its appetite for further merger deals lifted Infineon’s shares by nearly 15 percent to a 13-year high of 13.39 euros.
Infineon - whose electronic chips activate car airbags, enable cruise control, manage power supplies and cut vehicle emissions - also predicted a further rise in revenue this year to the top end of analysts’ forecasts.
A wave of consolidation is reshaping its industry, as rival NXP is expected soon to close a deal to buy Freescale while ON Semiconductor has agreed to buy Fairchild, which Infineon had been rumoured to want.
Infineon was an early mover in the merger trend, acquiring International Rectifier for $3 billion in cash early in 2015, its largest ever deal. It said profit margins for this acquired business hit its target of 15 percent in the latest quarter, one year ahead of schedule.
This clears the way for Infineon to consider further deal-making, Chief Executive Reinhard Ploss suggested to analysts following the results, although he added that Infineon was in no rush to pursue any specific combination.
“You have seen that Infineon has switched to become an active player in the semiconductor industry consolidation and we have a very clear strategy,” Ploss said.
“We will definitely consider M&A as part of the Infineon strategy,” he said, suggesting that the company could strike if a deal would help it expand its product portfolio or geographic reach while making financial sense.
Infineon has shown interest in investing in Japanese chip firm Renesas Electronics and other strategic options, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unnamed sources.
Infineon executives declined to comment on this or other potential deals it might consider, but signalled on Thursday that the company’s appetite for big deals had its limits.
Chief Financial Officer Dominik Asam told reporters that Infineon is prepared to use debt to finance mid-sized deals of up to 1-2 billion euros but it would need to fund larger deals with a share issue.
Infineon has a 13.2 billion-euro ($14 bln) market value, while Renesas is valued at 1.30 trillion yen (10 bln euros), according to Thomson Reuters data.
Infineon’s upbeat outlook contrasted with those of European peers STMicroelectronics and NXP, who have warned that a deterioration in business conditions in China has spread to other regions, dimming prospects this year.
Infineon said it expected revenue in the fiscal year ending in September 2016 to rise by between 11 and 15 percent, up from 5.8 billion euros ($6.2 billion) last year, compared with an 18 percent rise in the 2014/15, excluding International Rectifier.
The forecast implies revenue of 6.43 billion to 6.66 billion euros this year. Analysts polled by Reuters expected revenue of 6.4 billion.
Infineon said its power-management chip business unit, which account for about a third of total sales, would grow faster than the group’s average, while automotive chips, which account for almost 40 percent of sales, would grow more slowly.
The Munich-based company’s fourth-quarter operating profit rose 52 percent to 286 million euros, helped by currency effects and healthy margins at International Rectifier, beating the most optimistic estimate in the poll. (1 euro = 130.0149 yen) ($1 = 0.9427 euros) (Additional reporting by Jens Hack in Munich; editing by Victoria Bryan and Greg Mahlich)