Ultratech fires senior VP of laser processing

Ultratech, a supplier of lithography and laser-processing systems used to manufacture semiconductors and nanotechnology devices, has terminated the employment of Somit Talwar, senior vice president of laser processing.

SAN JOSE, CA - Ultratech, a supplier of lithography and laser-processing systems used to manufacture semiconductors and nanotechnology devices, has terminated the employment of Somit Talwar, senior vice president of laser processing. According to news reports, he was let go for violating the company’s stock-trading policies. The move came as a surprise to many analysts because Talwar has been so highly touted by Ultratech CEO Art Zafiropoulo.

Earlier this summer, Ultratech named Andrew Hawryluk, to the position of senior vice president of engineering for lithography and laser processing. Hawryluk has more than two decades of experience in the semiconductor industry, including high-level positions at Photon Dynamics and KLA-Tencor Corp.

Ultratech has been developing laser thermal processing tools that utilize its laser spike anneal technology, where the annealing is done on a die-by-die basis in a step and repeat laser process akin to the litho exposure techniques of steppers and scanners. But investors and analysts have expressed concern over the company’s backlog and the amount of time it is taking to move its technology into the commercial market.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2005, Ultratech reported net sales of $28.8 million, compared to $22.5 million during the second quarter of 2004. Net loss for the quarter was $2.0 million, or $0.08/share, compared to a net loss of $2.3 million, or $0.10/share, for the same quarter last year.

“Ultratech continued to gain traction in the deployment of the laser spike anneal (LSA) tools as evidenced by additional orders received during the quarter, which we believe is the critical benchmark in validating the company’s laser processing technology,” said Zafiropoulo. “Currently, we have received orders from eight out of the top ten largest logic manufacturers from all major geographic regions including the United States, Europe, Asia, and Japan, for insertion at the 65nm technology node.”

However, he also noted that the company’s backlog has approached historically high levels with bookings across all product lines. In addition, in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Ultratech said there was uncertainty about the timing of contracts to be signed with Taiwanese customers and that the final booking for some orders could be pushed out beyond the quarter.

Ultratech stock prices fell from around $21/share to below $14/share on news of Talwar’s departure, but have since rebounded to $15/share.

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