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Electronics news digest
26 May 2010, News, Electronic News Digest

South Africa

Altron’s revenue declined by 10% from R24,8 billion to R22,3 billion for the year to February 2010. EBITDA fell by 11% from R2,2 billion to R2,0 billion and adjusted diluted headline earnings per share experienced a 22% reduction. The group saw these results as being a consequence of the strengthening of the rand, the longer than usual lag effect in terms of interest rate cuts on the market and the consequent decrease in demand levels, as well as Altron’s focus on rationalising, restructuring and right-sizing its operations in order to capitalise on what is likely to be a gradual recovery of the economy. The group broadly maintained its dividend cover at 2,5 times based on adjusted headline earnings per share, declaring a dividend of 90 cents per share.

Overseas

Business

RF Micro Devices reported financial results for its fiscal 2010 fourth quarter, ended 3 April 2010: Quarterly revenue increased 51,4% year-over-year and 4,2% sequentially to $260,8 million. On a GAAP basis, gross margin increased sequentially by 130 basis points to 37,7%, quarterly operating income was $36,6 million, and quarterly net income was $26,7 million, or $0,10 per diluted share. Comparatively, net loss in the fourth quarter of 2009 was $58,7 million or $0,22 per share, while net income in the third quarter of 2010 was $24,9 million or $0,09 per share.

ON Semiconductor announced that total revenues in the first quarter of 2010 were $550,2 million, an increase of approximately 11% from the fourth quarter of 2009. During the first quarter of 2010, the company reported GAAP net income of $63,0 million, or $0,14 per fully diluted share. The first quarter 2010 GAAP net income included net charges of $22,3 million, or $0,05 per fully diluted share, from special items. Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter of 2010 was $127,3 million and includes stock-based compensation expense. Adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $123,5 million and also included stock-based compensation expense.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010, ending 31 March, Microchip recorded net sales of $278,0 million, up 11,2% sequentially and up 60,5% from the fourth quarter of last year. Net income for the most recent quarter was $75,7 million and EPS (earnings per share) was 40 cents per diluted share. For fiscal year 2010, net sales of $947,7 million were up 4,9% year-over-year, while net income was $216,0 million and EPS was $1,15 per diluted share.

Maxim has entered into a memorandum of understanding reflecting an agreement in principle to settle all claims asserted against all defendants in the putative class action concerning the company’s stock option accounting practices. The agreement in principle provides for the payment of $173 million by the company; the after-tax cash impact is estimated to be $110 million. Following reports indicating that Maxim appeared to have backdated option grants, the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007 initiated an informal inquiry into the company’s stock options grants and practices.

Silicon Laboratories reported first quarter revenue of $126,7 million, beating expectations and setting a record for first quarter performance. This revenue figure represented a 51% increase over the same period in 2009 and flat sequentially. First quarter GAAP gross margin increased considerably to 66%. R&D investment for the first quarter was $29,9 million. GAAP operating income was more than 20% for the third consecutive quarter. Fully diluted earnings per share were $0,44, up dramatically from $0,01 during the same period last year.

Announcing unaudited financial results for its first quarter ended 31 March 2010, Broadcom reported record net revenue of $1,46 billion. This represents an increase of 8,9% compared with the $1,34 billion reported for the fourth quarter of 2009 and an increase of 71,3% compared with the $853 million reported for the first quarter of 2009. Net income computed in accordance with GAAP was $210 million, or $,40 per share (diluted), compared with GAAP net income of $59 million, or $,11 per share (diluted), for the fourth quarter of 2009, and a GAAP net loss of $92 million, or $0,19 net loss per share (basic and diluted), for the first quarter of 2009.

SMIC’s annual 2009 sales decreased by 20,9% from $1353,7 million for 2008 to $1070,4 million for 2009, primarily due to a decrease in overall wafer shipments. For the full year 2009, overall wafer shipments were 1 376 663 units of 8-inch equivalent wafers, down 14,6% year-on-year. The average selling price of the wafers the company shipped decreased by 7,5% from $840 per wafer to $778. Excluding DRAM revenue, the percentage of wafer revenues that used 0,13 micron and below process technology increased from 38,2% to 47,5% between these two periods.

UMC announced its unconsolidated operating results for the first quarter of 2010. Revenue decreased 3,7% quarter-on-quarter to NT$26,72 billion, from NT$27,75 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, but increased 147% year-on-year, from NT$10,84 billion in the first quarter of 2009. Gross margin was 24,6%. Operating margin was 12,7%, net income was NT$3,48 billion and earnings per ordinary share were NT$0,28. Shipment volume reached a record high of 1,033 million 8-inch equivalent wafers and capacity utilisation rose to 88%.

Actel announced net revenues of $52,3 million for the first quarter of 2010, up 7,8% from the first quarter of 2009 and up 5,2% from the fourth quarter of 2009. The company reported GAAP net income of $2,9 million, or $0,11 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2010 compared with a net loss of $3,0 million, or $0,11 per basic share, for the first quarter of 2009 and a net income of $1,0 million, or $0,04 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Companies

Inside Contactless, a provider of contactless secure transaction chip technologies, has entered into an agreement to purchase for an undisclosed cash consideration Atmel’s Secure Microcontroller Solutions (SMS) business. Atmel also will make an investment in Inside. The resulting combination could put Inside in a leading position to meet the growing global demand for solutions in the payments market, the emerging NFC mobile commerce market and the electronic identification market. The resulting organisation would be the largest fabless semiconductor company in France, and one of the largest in Europe.

M/A-COM Technology Solutions and Mimix Broadband jointly announced that their respective corporate parents have signed a definitive merger agreement that will add Mimix and its subsidiaries to the M/A-COM Tech family of companies. Mimix is a fabless supplier of gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductors from DC to 50 GHz for RF, microwave and millimetre-wave applications. Pursuant to the merger agreement, Mimix Holdings and its subsidiaries will join M/A-COM Tech as subsidiaries of M/A-COM Technology Solutions Holdings. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is currently expected to close in late May 2010. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Nokia has filed a complaint against Apple with the Federal District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, alleging that Apple iPhone and iPad 3G products infringe five important Nokia patents. The patents in question relate to technologies for enhanced speech and data transmission, using positioning data in applications and innovations in antenna configurations that improve performance and save space, allowing smaller and more compact devices. During the last two decades, Nokia has invested approximately 40 billion Euros in research and development and built one of the wireless industry’s strongest and broadest IPR portfolios, with over 11 000 patent families.

Silicon Laboratories announced the acquisition of Silicon Clocks, an early stage company creating innovative micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) technology. Silicon Clocks’ CMEMS (CMOS+MEMS) technology is aligned with Silicon Labs’ efforts to leverage its CMOS-based timing products into high-volume applications such as consumer electronics. Silicon Clocks pioneered the development of a MEMS process technology that allows for the fabrication of MEMS resonators and other sensor structures directly on top of standard CMOS wafers. This approach aims to eliminate the need for boutique semiconductor processing and enables high performance, integration and small size by eliminating the electrical parasitics and packaging issues associated with traditional solutions that co-package a standalone MEMS device and an IC.

Industry

Texas Instruments has joined the HomeGrid Forum board of directors to contribute to this worldwide standardisation effort through the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU-T) G.hn organisation. Through the implementation of a worldwide standard, developers hope to be able to bring the intelligence and reliability of networking over power lines to a broad range of energy management applications that will advance the smart grid, including automatic meter infrastructure (AMI), home networking, building automation, electric vehicle communications and distributed renewable energy sources. ITU-T recently commissioned G.hnem, a new project within G.hn, intended to address the home networking, electric vehicle communications and grid access aspects of energy management. G.hnem will look to learn from existing low-frequency narrowband OFDM technologies.

Worldwide PC microprocessor unit shipments in the first calendar quarter of 2010 declined 5,6% compared to 4Q09, according to the latest PC processor study from International Data Corporation (IDC). A decline between a calendar year’s fourth quarter and the next calendar year’s first quarter is typical of seasonal demand patterns but this decline is less than normal. When compared to 1Q09, shipments in 1Q10 rose 39,0%. The overall market average selling price in 1Q10 rose 4,1% quarter over quarter due to more high-end processors in the total mix compared to 4Q09. In 1Q10, Intel earned 81,0% unit market share, a gain of 0,5%, while AMD earned 18,8%, a loss of 0,6%, and VIA Technologies earned 0,2%.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reported that worldwide semiconductor sales in March were $23,1 billion, an increase of 4,6% from February when sales were $22,0 billion. Sales increased by 58,3% from March 2009 when they were $14,6 billion. The first quarter of 2009 marked the low point in semiconductor sales during the global economic recession. Sales for the first quarter of 2010 were $69,2 billion compared to $43,7 billion for the first quarter of 2009. All monthly sales numbers represent a three-month moving average.

According to analysis by Semicast Research, Infineon was the largest supplier of semiconductors to the automotive sector in 2009. Freescale, for many years the leading supplier of automotive semiconductors, dropped to third place behind newly formed Renesas Electronics, and ahead of STMicroelectronics and NXP Semiconductor. Semicast’s analysis shows that most of the leading suppliers to the automotive sector lost share in 2009 with the exception of Texas Instruments and ON Semiconductor, which both recorded falling revenues but at a rate slower than the sector average. The overall automotive semiconductor market is estimated to have fallen by 17% in 2009 to $15,8 billion, the largest ever annual decline. Automotive semiconductor sales peaked in 2007 at $20,0 billion, but fell in both 2008 and 2009 to a level now 20% below the peak. Semicast forecasts growth in the automotive semiconductor market of 16% in 2010, with steady growth projected for the medium term.

A number of companies have joined the newly formed Nsemble Multi-Core Alliance, an industry organisation aimed at driving innovations in multicore parallel processing platforms and software development for next-generation enterprise, telecommunications and data centre networks. The member list of companies includes Advantech, BitDefender, D2 Technologies, Mentor Graphics and NEXCOM.

Technology

LeCroy announced that the sixth generation of digital bandwidth interleave (DBI) technology has been successfully demonstrated in its design labs in New York. This latest generation technology will use new front-end chips, which provide lower noise and higher native bandwidths. The combination of new silicon and improved DBI techniques can produce low-noise digital oscilloscopes with true analog bandwidths up to 60 GHz, doubling the capabilities of LeCroy’s current bandwidth performance of 30 GHz. Product development efforts using the new technology have begun and are expected to yield a fresh pipeline of high-end products during the next two years. The first products using this new technology are expected to be announced before the end of calendar 2010 and will provide four simultaneous channels with 45 GHz real-time bandwidth.


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