Earnings point to photonics industry recovery

NASHUA, NH--As editor of Optoelectronics Report, I am pleased to announce that laser and photonics company financials for the fourth quarter of calendar year 2009 continued their upward trend as forecast in our annual Marketplace Review.

Mar 1st, 2010

NASHUA, NH--As editor of Optoelectronics Report, I am pleased to announce that laser and photonics company financials for the fourth quarter of calendar year 2009 continued their upward trend as forecast in our annual Marketplace Review (see January 1 issue of Optoelectronics Report), with 2010 earnings estimates from companies in all sectors poised to indicate growth ahead for the photonics industry.

Serving the broader photonics markets

For the first fiscal quarter (and calendar Q4 2009) ended January 2, 2010, Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) saw net sales of $122.8 million compared to net sales of $124.4 million--slightly higher--for the same period in 2009. However, bookings received in calendar Q4 2009 were $158.4 million, a 53.3% increase from $103.3 million in the same prior year period and an increase of 18.7% compared to bookings of $133.4 million in the immediately preceding quarter, signaling a return to growth in 2010. "Orders were up significantly over the prior year period in all four markets," said John Ambroseo, Coherent's president and CEO, in the company financials release. "Given our backlog and outlook, we are raising our fiscal 2010 projection for net sales to $525 to $550 million."

Financial results for Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA) for its fourth quarter (calendar Q4 2009) and full year ended January 2, 2010, reflected similar optimism to Coherent. Newport's fiscal Q4 saw $108.3 million in new orders, representing a 17.0% sequential increase over the $92.6 million in orders recorded in the Q3 2009. It also saw $101.6 million in net sales--a 15.0% sequential increase over the $88.3 million recorded in the Q3 2009. Despite the good news, Newport's sales were lower in Q4 2009 compared with Q4 2008 across all its end markets, reflecting the macroeconomic decline experienced during 2009. However, total Q4 orders increased on a year-over-year basis. Robert J. Phillippy, Newport's president and CEO, said, "From both a strategic and operational perspective, 2009 was a year of many significant accomplishments for Newport ... we expect our net sales for the full year 2010 to increase by more than 10% over 2009."

Materials processing

The economic downturn hit the materials processing markets hard, with many companies down 35% in sales or more.

For Rofin-Sinar's (Plymouth, MI and Hamburg, Germany) first fiscal quarter ended January 31, 2009 (calendar Q4 2009), Rofin saw net sales of nearly $93 million, down 13% from $107 million for the same period last year. While still not in growth mode, the numbers represent a marked improvement over last year's performance. "Our objective for the remainder of fiscal 2010 is to further capitalize on the strength of ROFIN's broad product portfolio and its expanding global network, which continues to be a key element of our future success. Many of the markets that we serve are showing improved activity levels, and we are therefore cautiously optimistic about our future growth potential," said Peter Wirth, chairman of the board of RSTI.

IPG Photonics (Oxford, MA) has seen phenomenal growth in the fiber-laser materials processing markets. For the three months ended December 31, 2009, IPG saw revenues of $54.3 million, compared to $58.2 million in the same period last year--a phenomenal recovery considering how far the materials-processing markets fell in 2009. "As we met greater-than-expected demand in the fourth quarter, a significant amount of product was sold out of our inventory," said Valentin Gapontsev, IPG Photonics' CEO. "Demand for high-power welding and cutting applications and a rebound in sales to the auto industry drove an 18% increase in materials processing applications in the fourth quarter on a sequential basis, although we still reported a 10% decline year-over-year."

Lithography and specialty markets

JDSU (Milpitas, CA), which primarily serves the communications industry and also many industrial/medical/military applications, reported net revenue of $342.9 million for its fiscal Q2 ended January 2, 2010, compared to net revenue of $297.8 million for the prior quarter and $353.8 million for the same quarter last year. In effect, sales are nearly back to late 2008 levels. "Our fiscal Q2 results reflect revenue growth across all the business segments and a clear demonstration of the leverage in our operating model," said Tom Waechter, JDSU's president and CEO.

And finally, a look at a key laser supplier into the semiconductor lithography market--also hit hard by the economic woes of 2009--shows that things are looking up in 2010 for the photonics industry. For Cymer's (San Diego, CA) fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2009, revenue totaled just over $96.4 million compared to revenue of just over $100.4 million in Q4 2008 a year ago, and compared to revenue of around $92.3 million in Q3 2009. Bob Akins, Cymer's CEO, said, "We are pleased with our solid financial performance in the fourth quarter as we further benefited from an improving business environment, our reduced cost structure, and increased operational efficiencies."

--Gail Overton

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