Strategically Blogging

Fiber Laser Market Continues to Evolve

Allen Nogee 09/05/2014

I’ve always been a person who has been very interested in the latest technology, and sometimes it’s hard for me to believe how much technology has changed over the years.

Everything from flat screen TVs, DVRs, audio equipment, cables and wiring, computers, tablets, smartphones, and so many others have evolved over the years, and in most ways, the new technology is quicker, smaller, cheaper, and more energy efficient. Today we take all these things for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that a flat screen TV or a smartphone was a novelty. Today we just can’t even imagine living without these things.

Martin Shih

A Win-Win Situation: Cree Announces Investment in Lextar through Private Placement

Martin Shih 09/05/2014

Cree recently announced plans to invest US $83M in Lextar Electronics, one of Taiwan’s major LED manufacturers, in order to acquire 13% of Lextar shares and to enter a supply/royalty agreement. Cree will become Lextar’s second largest shareholder (AUO, Lextar’s parent company, is the biggest shareholder) and obtain one member of BOD. This deal is expected to be done at the end of 2014 and the lock-up period is 3 years, which means Lextar will reserve its capacity for Cree for 3 years.

Lasers in Medical Imaging: The Forecast Looks Very Bright

Allen Nogee 07/11/2014

Almost all medical imaging to date has used one of three technologies: X-rays, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound. X-rays alone have been used for almost 120 years now, and although today’s imaging technology has improved vastly over the many years, the fact remains that x-rays, ultrasound, and magnetism are all technologies that, due to many factors, produce coarse images, at least by today’s standards. But what if a very coherent light source was used instead, maybe a laser?

Actually, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), which produces images based on the reflections of coherent light, is not a new technology. OCT has been used since the early 1990s, especially in the area of ophthalmology, where the images produced by OCT are 100 times finer than standard images produced by ultrasound. In just the last five years, OCT has become one of the most important retinal imaging techniques used today.

The Impact of the Epistar Acquisition on the LED Industry

Martin Shih 07/09/2014

Epistar (2448.TW) announced a plan to fully acquire Forepi (3061.TW), the second-largest chipmaker in Taiwan, through a share swap (1:3.448), implying 18% share dilution to Epistar. The effective date will be the end of 2014, and Forepi will be delisted from the TAIEX.

After the merger, Epistar will become the world’s largest LED chip maker in terms of capacity with a global market share of 15%, which will better position the company to lead in future technology development.

EPA's New Emissions Cutting Plan Could Have an Effect on LED Lighting

Philip Smallwood 06/30/2014

On June 2nd, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. The EPA will finalize the proposal in mid-2015 and then give states a year to design their own plans to meet targets. The organization will let states meet emission targets for power plants in several ways, including through plant upgrades, by switching from coal to natural gas, by improving energy efficiency, or by promoting renewable energy outside the plant site. This approach will give states greater flexibility in designing plans to meet the EPA’s targets.

Those lousy laser company margins

By Tom Hausken
Ever really looked at the margins earned by laser companies? And then looked at margins for companies like Cisco or Google? It's enough to make you weep.

Industrial laser company margins are modest but steady. The net profit margins for the industrial laser companies aren't too bad. Since 2006, gross margins on annual sales for Coherent , IPG Photonics , Newport , and Rofin are mainly in the 40-50% range. Operating margins range from single digits to 30-some percent. The net profit margins are mostly single digits to low teens (Coherent, Newport, and Rofin), while IPG is running lately at about 23%. Trumpf , which sells much more in machine tools than it does merchant lasers, used to have about 9-10% net profit margin, but suffered in the downturn and has recovered in the last fiscal year to 6.7%.

All in all, that's decent It's the telecom component suppliers that are really hurting.

Telecom supplier margins been mostly underwater until only recently. For Finisar , JDS Uniphase , Oclaro , and Opnext, the gross margins are lower, but it's the operating margins and net profit margins that are in the tank. Like, pretty much negative values for annual revenues since 2006. There's some improvement in the last year or so, with positive operating and net profit margins.

Now I know that these numbers are fraught with "yes, buts." These companies are generating cash flow, but their official, GAAP, unadulterated income statements show losses. And a company like JDSU is in multiple businesses. I'm lumping everything together.

Meanwhile, the customers reap the benefits. Now look at the customers. Cisco has gross margins in the 60% range, and net profit margins around 15-20%. That's net. EMC's net margin is running 12% this year. Juniper is 13%. The carriers aren't doing too badly either. AT&T is consistently in the teens and Verizon is in the single digits. And get this: Google's net margin is a running a whopping 27%!

So we know who is getting the margins. It's not the components companies. Nor is it Alcatel-Lucent or Ciena, who have had consistently negative margins too. It's the router and storage companies like Cisco and EMC, and the equipment users like Google and AT&T.

The component suppliers may finally be in positive territory for good. I hope so. It's not right that the customers get margins while the components companies don't.

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