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Electronics News Digest

29 August 2001 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

In line with its stated policy of disinvesting from noncore business activities, Spescom has announced the sale, subject to Competition Commission approval, of its 50% shareholding in Energy Measurements to Siemens Limited for the sum of R35m. Energy Measurements is a supplier of revenue management systems and solutions, based on encrypted keypad technology. Says Spescom executive chairman, Tony Farah, "We have, jointly with Siemens, created a world centre of excellence in South Africa for prepayment metering. Using Spescom's technology, which is a world first, we have managed to penetrate over 40 countries throughout the globe. This sale is the culmination of an incredibly good venture fulfilling both Siemens' and Spescom's objectives." Farah confirms that the disposal of Energy Measurements is in line with the Spescom group's strategy to dispose of activities that are noncore to the ICT (information and communications technology) sector. Energy Measurements was recently awarded an Eskom National Contract (ENC) for prepayment meters, for the seventh year in a row.

Transtel has announced that it intends to participate in the Second National Operator (SNO), to be licensed for service from 7 May 2002. In preparation it has been upgrading and extending its infrastructure, including rolling out a nationwide fibre-optic network. Transtel says that it has already issued a tender request to identify a technology partner, who will work with it on implementing a 'next generation telecommunications network' (NGN). Transtel is the telecommunications division of Transnet and provides services to Spoornet, SAA, Portnet and other Transnet divisions, as well as to private clients in South Africa and across 17 other African countries. According to Transtel it is currently the largest full-service private telecommunications operator in the southern hemisphere, and is recognised as an operator by the International Telecommunications Union.

IST Telecom's contract to supply its UMC 1000 digital loop carrier equipment to Telkom SA has been renewed for two years from August 2001, reports the company. IST has been one of the major suppliers of loop carrier equipment - which enables Telkom to enhance its access networks by extending telephone exchanges to remote sites through optic fibre - to Telkom since 1997. The volume and value of the supply contract are not fixed and depend on Telkom's requirements. The contract's average annual added value to IST - the balance of the revenue after its American principals have been paid for the basic equipment - was R22m since 1998.

Lighting Structures, a manufacturer of telecommunications and lighting masts based in Nigel, has been purchased by an international group made up of equal partners LeBlanc of Australia, and Al Babtain Industries of Saudi Arabia. The business will continue to operate in its present form as a division of the newly formed LeBlanc Communications South Africa.

The Board of new IT company arivia.kom has announced the appointment of Hugo Knoetze, business strategist and finance specialist, as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Zeth Malele, CEO of arivia.kom said that Knoetze's role will be to "formulate and manage a financial and investment strategy to position arivia.kom for future commercialisation, providing corporate financial direction to the organisation and ensuring that appropriate financial and investment strategies are deployed which will enable the organisation to deliver on its company strategy and vision."

Parsec Components has been appointed as the sole distributor for Nonvolatile Electronics.

A new company called ACSC Electronics was formed and registered in August 2001 to offer the manufacturing industry a professional component sourcing service as well as arranging consulting/freelancing services. According to Managing Member Reg Adendorff, the company's intention is not to compete with the established corporate companies but to form partnerships with them and assist them in getting full market exposure. Tel: (011) 740 7891.

Steve Stevenson, for many years the marketing manager for semiconductors with Siemens Components, has branched out into a new field and launched his own training and presentation business - Allegro Corporate Training Solutions. He offers services in two areas. The first is holding workshops in 'Increasing personal and team effectiveness', and the second is in presentation skills. According to Stevenson, the poor quality of the many presentations he has seen both locally and around the world motivated him to offer training in public speaking, the technical aspects of Microsoft PowerPoint, and the 'correct' application of its many features, and other tips and tricks. e-mail: allegrotraining@netactive.co.za.

Overseas

Business

Cisco Systems has reported a $1,01bn net loss for fiscal 2001, compared to a profit of $2,67 bn in the same period a year ago. Sales were $22,29 bn for 2001, compared with $18,93 bn a year ago. Pro forma net income, excluding acquisition charges, payroll tax on stock option exercises, restructuring costs and other special charges, was $3,09 bn. This compares to a pro forma net income of $3,91 bn for fiscal 2000.

Analog Devices announced revenues of $480m for the third quarter of fiscal 2001, ended August 4. Revenues were 32% below the prior year's third quarter and 20% below the immediately prior quarter. Analog Devices' net income was $64,7m in the just-ended quarter compared to $116,8m in the prior second fiscal quarter.

Maxim has reported results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ending June 30, 2001, reflecting the combined results of both Maxim and Dallas Semiconductor accounted for under the pooling-of-interests method. Maxim reported 18,4% sequential drop in net revenues to $318,1m, compared to $397,8m in the prior three-month period. Maxim posted a net loss of $16,2m in the quarter, including a pretax charge of $163,4m for merger as well as special items related to write-downs of equipment and facilities. Maxim posted a net income of $106,0m in the quarter last year on revenues of $389,8m.

Taiwan's Winbond Electronics has reported a $74m loss and a 52,5% sequential drop in sales for the first half of 2001. This, on sales of $383,3m, compares to a profit of $122,7m on sales of $615,3m for the first half of 2000. In the second half of 2000 the company reported a net of $169,3m on sales of $807m. Winbond attributed the loss on the global downturn in the semiconductor business and the economic recession in the United States.

Companies

Osram GmbH of Regensburg, Germany, will acquire all Infineon Technologies' shares (49%) in their joint venture, Osram Opto Semiconductors, for 565m euros ($502m). Osram Opto Semiconductors will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Osram, one of the world's largest lamp manufacturers. In fiscal 2000, Osram Opto Semiconductors had revenue of 281m euros ($202m). The transaction will take immediate effect. The acquisition is aimed at strengthening Osram's position in optical semiconductors, while enabling Infineon to focus more of its resources on its core communications chip businesses.

Nokia has agreed to acquire US networking company Amber Networks for $421m in a stock transaction. The company will integrate with Nokia's Networks Platforms business group.

US defence contractor General Dynamics intends to acquire Motorola's Integrated Information Systems Group for $825m to strengthen its position in communications and information technology.

PMC-Sierra has joined as a founding member of the HyperTransport Technology Consortium and will assist in driving the development of HyperTransport technology specifications intended to increase the overall system performance of future communications devices. PMC-Sierra has already implemented the technology in its RM9000x2 GHz multiprocessor.

Dense-Pac Microsystems has changed its name to DPAC Technologies Corp, a name intended to reflect the company's 'heritage in semiconductor packaging' while helping to position it for growth in new segments, according to Kevin Perry, Vice President of sales and marketing.

Ericsson has announced it will adjust its organisation to benefit from the ongoing globalisation trend among operators and drive the technology shift to mobile and broadband Internet. According to Kurt Hellström, President and CEO of Ericsson, the new organisation will put more emphasis on serving its customers, reduce complexity, and it would more efficiently apply resources. Effective 1 September, a new product and service structure will be based on five business units - Mobile Systems, WCDMA and GSM; Multi-Service Networks and Data Backbone; Mobile Systems CDMA; Transmission and Transport; Global Services - and four supporting core units.

Cirrus Logic has signed an agreement to acquire Stream Machine, a leading supplier of MPEG-2 video recording technology, strengthening its reach into entertainment solutions for next generation, networked home entertainment applications. Cirrus Logic will pay an estimated $110m in a stock-for-stock transaction.

API Networks has licensed its HyperTransport technology to Xilinx for use in high-density FPGAs. The HyperTransport technology was launched by AMD as a high-speed, point-to-point link for integrated circuits in PCs, networking systems, and communications products.

Tyco Electronics has licensed FormFactor's MicroSpring technology for use in the design and manufacture of microprocessor connectors. According to FormFactor its proprietary technology is the next step in advanced test capability and a serious challenge to flip-chip designs as an alternative packaging format.

TDK Semiconductor has filed a suit against Silicon Laboratories over a communications-chip patent. TDK's suit claims that Silicon Labs infringed upon a patent that relates to a method for communicating a signal across an isolation barrier by using capacitors.

Industry

After two years of semiconductor growth, worldwide semiconductor revenue is projected to be $168 bn, a 26% decline from year 2000's record revenue of

$226 bn, according to the latest forecast by Dataquest. "There are few signs of growth in design wins. Component prices and lead-times are still low, and electronic system component demand is weak," said Mary Olsson, Chief Analyst at Gartner Dataquest. "Based on guidance and early reports from some of the larger bellwether companies involved in PCs, storage and communications, the second half of 2001 will be dismal for the semiconductor industry." Gartner says the biggest uncertainty for the semiconductor industry is when the declinewill stop. Price stabilisation, longer device lead times and improved demand for memory products are the industry's indicators that signal turning points in semiconductor cycles. Overall semiconductor prices were still declining in May and June of this year, and, in the analog sector, prices have been stable for proprietary analog products (both general-purpose and ASSPs), it said.

In the past year, PC semiconductor suppliers have experienced a complete reversal of fortune. From March through August 2000, they struggled to fulfill extraordinary demand, but since then demand has plummeted. According to IDC, the market will not recover until after 2005. IDC has forecast that revenues in the total worldwide PC market will fall from $50,3 bn in 2000 to $38 bn in 2001 - a loss of $12 bn. The desktop PC semiconductor market will be hardest hit, it says, with revenues free-falling from $38,6 bn to $27,3 bn - a loss of more than $11 bn. Mobile PC semiconductor revenues will experience a drop of less than $1 bn, from $11,7 bn to $10,6 bn. In terms of semis, microprocessors and DRAM lead the downward spiral. IDC estimates worldwide microprocessor revenue will fall from $27,1 bn in 2000 to $22,2 bn by the end of 2001. PC DRAM revenues will decline from $12,4 bn to $6,6 bn during the same time.

With the overall slowdown in the global electronics marketplace impacting the power management component sector significantly in the last quarter, the latest forecasts from iSuppli indicate that revenues for power MOSFETs should post a 2% gain for the year - the only bright spot in an otherwise difficult market. It says overall, power management component revenues are forecasted to decline 6% in 2001, and virtually every component type other than MOSFETs will post significant declines, including rectifiers (-20%), voltage regulator and power ICs (-13%) and power discretes including bipolar transistors (-5%). While revenue declines for this market bottomed in Q2, most sectors are expected to remain soft through the remainder of the year with a rebound beginning only in Q4.

General Semiconductor has announced details of its restructuring plan. The company expects total annualised cost savings of approximately $25m and expects to take pre-tax charges in the third quarter of up to $60m. In response to the weak economic environment and unprecedented declines in end-market demand, the company said it decided to close its facility in Macroom, Ireland, which manufactures transient voltage suppression (TVS) diodes and rectifiers. General Semiconductor will transfer the majority of these product lines to its Taiwan and China facilities, while outsourcing production of certain other products to subcontractors. In addition, the company has instituted cost reduction programs at all of its facilities and offices worldwide.

US-based trade groups, Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) and Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC), have issued a joint standard outlining new requirements for electronic-grade solder alloys. Known as J-STD-006A, the standard allows for no more than 0,2% lead content in solder alloys.

Hynix Semiconductor America has announced record-high 128M DDR (double data rate) SDRAM sales totalling 1,7m units for July - which it claims captures 45% of the global DDR SDRAM market. The company anticipates that August sales will exceed three million units. According to the company the surge in DDR SDRAM demand has been driven by motherboard manufacturers launching products with chip-sets, obtained from suppliers such as VIA and others, which support the DDR platform. Hynix has favourably promoted DDR SDRAM as the next generation high-performance DRAM standard. DDR synchronous DRAMs now typically have a price tag that's 20% higher than existing SDRAMs with the same densities, according to Hynix.

Personal computer shipments in western Europe have dropped for the first time ever during the second quarter this year, said Dataquest. The group estimated that 6,02m PCs were shipped in the region during Q2, a 4% decline from a year ago. PC shipments to the wider region of Europe, Middle East and Africa totalled 8,38m units during the second quarter of 2001, a 0,1% increase over the same period last year, said Dataquest.

While suppliers of passive components continue to experience slower market conditions for most types of capacitors and resistors, iSuppli's latest forecast indicates that demand for smaller, more capable portable devices, such as cellphones, PDAs and PCs, is powering the growth for the passive industry's newest products: 0201 case size capacitors and integrated passive devices (IPDs). It says that revenue growth in both of these higher ASP product categories is beginning to accelerate as OEMs and CEMs use them in new designs for high volume production consumer products. According to Shawn Wood, a senior analyst, 0201 sizes will surpass 1206 case sizes in popularity, a growth made possible by advances in pick-and-place and soldering equipment. Also, he says that while many manufacturers are turning to the small 0201 case sizes, manufacturers are looking to IPDs - customised arrays of passive devices on a single small substrate - as an answer for achieving smaller form factors.

Rapid development of palm-top computing and digital cellular telephony, and the resulting demand for lightweight information appliances, will cause the market for Java VM (Virtual Machine) to rise at a CAGR of 83,5% from 2000 to 2005. This is according to In-Stat which says that Java is not directly supported by any microprocessor architecture that has succeeded in gaining significant volume shipments. Java VM, a solution that lets processors run Java code, is enabling those mobile communication and computing appliances that are becoming increasingly important. As a result, the high-tech market research firm projects that worldwide Java VM extensions, software interpreters, and accelerator units will collectively reach 721m units by 2005, with Java accelerators experiencing the highest rate of growth.

Samsung has opened a smartcard centre in Paris to serve the European market.

Rosenberger has announced it is the first manufacturer of RF coaxial connectors to be certified according to ISO/TS 16949 by DQS of Germany. ISO/TS 16949 certifies a very high-level quality management system to meet the needs of the international automotive industry and that has distinctly higher requirements than ISO 9001, according to the company.

Munich International Trade Fairs will run its first electronics trade fair in China - electronicChina - from 12-15 March 2002. The trade fair, at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, incorporates topics about components, assemblies, electronics production and photonic technologies.

Technology

A new solar cell designed and built by Spectrolab, a business of The Boeing Company, has been named as one of the year's 100 most significant technologies selected by Research & Development Magazine. Known as a triple-junction terrestrial concentrator solar cell, the technology has achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 34% in laboratory tests, which means that it is the first to exceed the goal of the US Department of Energy (DoE) One-Third-of-a-Sun initiative according to the manufacturer. The solar cell is called triple-junction because it employs a three-layered structure that is more effective than other structures in capturing and converting solar spectrum into electricity. Each junction captures and converts a different portion of the spectrum.

Infineon Technologies has revealed what it claims is the the industry's first single chip triple-band tuner IC solution for all global broadcast standards including analog and digital terrestrial, digital cable, and analog television. The TAIFUN TUA6034 is a highly integrated solution to reduce the number of chips used in RF tuner front-end systems

Amkor's new ball grid array (BGA) package - called etCSP - is claimed to be the thinnest in the world. A single package stacks chips on top of each other with a height of only 0,35-to-0,5 mm. Amkor says that stacked etCSP designs allow a 'system in a stack' approach to mixing different technologies such as memory, logic and mixed signal in a thin or small form factor. Stacks of two and three packages have mounted heights that range between 0,7 - 1,0 mm and 1,1 - 1,7 mm, respectively. The base etCSP package is constructed from a thin-core organic laminate with full sized 0,3mm diameter solder balls on a standard 0,5mm pitch.

Intel has announced a new software technology called Light Field Mapping (LFM) that can help create more lifelike three-dimensional images for interactive applications. Game developers and animators are expected to use the technology to make more realistic objects and scenes in 3-D applications by correctly modelling the light reflection properties of 3-D objects.

The world's first single chip 40G framer-mapper/quad STS-192 device, for next generation SONET/SDH communication systems has been announced by Infineon Technologies. Together with Infineon's recently announced STS-768 MUX/ DEMUX chipset, the company says the new 40G framer-mapper offers high-level integration and feature-rich functionality to target high-density line card applications for the 10G and emerging 40G markets.

Texas Instruments has rolled out what it claims is the industry's fastest CMOS operational amplifiers that feature 200 MHz gain bandwidth and 360 V/µs slew rates. Part of TI's Burr-Brown product line they are aimed at high-speed applications, such as video processing, ultrasound, optical networking, photodiode transimpedance amplifier, and ADC input buffering. The OPA355 high-speed CMOS op amps are voltage-feedback devices that are unity-gain stable and can drive an output current of ±100 mA. Bandwidth in unity gain is 450 MHz.





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