MOCVD suppliers await H2 payoff for H1 LED gains

April 16, 2012 — Positives in the light-emitting diode (LED) space — improving utilization levels at the Taiwanese LED makers, moderating LED average selling prices (ASP) declines, and gradual growth in LED lighting demand in the US — should materialize for global LED manufacturers, says Barclays Capital’s Olga Levinzon.

However, this won’t translate immediately into increased capital expenditures on LED manufacturing equipment. There is no significant consolidation yet among Chinese players, and utilization levels in Taiwan, though improved, are still not sufficient to require new capacity adds. Revenue at the top nine LED chip and packaging houses fell 3% Q/Q, notes Maxim Group, but growth improved each successive quarter with a 10% decline in January turning into 14% growth in February and 16% growth in March. While the Taiwanese producers are more exposed to backlighting than general lighting, Maxim asserts that they still serve as a general barometer of industry-wide utilization. Epistar, Everlight, and sapphire producer Sino American anticipate utilization rates >90% in Q2.

Figure. Revenues at Taiwan’s LED chip makers and packaging houses by quarter. SOURCE: Maxim Group equity research.

This unsteady environment could extend through at least mid-summer 2012, with limited forecasts for the timing/magnitude of a recovery. Barclays assumes a normalized metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) tool market of ~525 tools annually; IMS Research puts the number closer to 342 in 2012.

Barclays predicts continued order weakness for AIXTRON. Also, AIXTRON’s full EUR 137M backlog exiting Q2 2011 will likely not be converted in H1 2012 due to continued push-outs from Chinese customers. AIXTRON will likely sell ~10 MOCVD tools in Q1, with additional revenue from tools for display, power electronics, and other fab markets; and from services. There will be modest growth ahead in MOCVD and power electronics manufacturing equipment sales. Barclays predicts AIXTRON will ship ~23 tools for LED fab in H1 2012 and ~80 in H2.

The other major MOCVD supplier for LED makers, Veeco (VECO), will see H1 MOCVD sales lag, though the company should be buoyed by orders from the data storage product fab sector until LED makers start ordering more aggressively in H2. Expect Veeco to ship ~29 MOCVD chambers in Q1 2012, vs. ~71 in Q4 2011.

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