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Electronics News Digest
5 June 2002, News, Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Spescom released its financial results for the interim period ending 31 March, reporting a 14% decrease in revenues, generated from continued operations, from R198m, for the corresponding period last year, to R171m for the period under review. Spescom said decline in revenues plus other factors have combined to result in a R68,5m headline loss whereas the same period last year reflected a R7,9m profit. Spescom executive chairman Tony Farah said that the two main factors contributing to the poor results were produced by circumstances beyond the company's control: "We have just come through a very bad patch specifically brought about by the depreciation of the rand and the downturn in the US economy that followed the events of 11 September. We suffered an R18m translated foreign exchange loss on offshore debt plus a R48m trading loss was incurred by the group's US subsidiary." Farah points out that there were no surprises in these financials as the returns are very much in line with what it cautioned in the statement it issued earlier in the year. He stressed that with the exception of one small division, all of the South African operations maintained profitability.

Grintek is reaping the benefits of a cooperation agreement signed earlier this year with a leading German high technology company, EADS Ewation. Pretoria-based Grintek Ewation has clinched an export order worth more than R110 million for a specialised electronic intelligence system. Marketing director Tinus van Wyk said that this order for a European client is a direct result of the successful joint venture, and he expects further success for Grintek Ewation in South East Asia for a number of similar systems. "Despite intense competition in this high technology field, we have succeeded in achieving major export success, to the extent that currently the bulk of our business is based offshore," he said. Grintek Ewation markets and develops products under the trademark MRCM. Its products represent the full range of state-of-the-art SIGINT technologies including power amplifiers in the HF and V/UHF ranges, as well as wideband monitoring, direction finding and signal classification equipment based on extremely fast data processing capabilities.

IST Telecom's contract to provide countrywide support services to Telkom SA for the UMC1000 access multiplexer range of products has been renewed for a year. Telkom recently also renewed the company's contract for the supply of its UMC 1000 equipment for two years from August 2001. IST says it has been one of the major suppliers of multiplexer equipment to Telkom since 1997. This equipment, in essence, enables Telkom to enhance its access networks by extending telephone exchanges to remote sites through optic fibre. The value of the support contract is not fixed and depends on Telkom's requirements. In the last financial year, however, it contributed 20% of IST Telecom's profit before tax.

Celtron International is expanding its operations to Europe where the company's mobile-cellular data communications technology is in high demand. The company's platform technology comprises a flexible, mobile data communications device, coupled with proprietary software and integrated management services. Currently being integrated with GPS it is applied in an automated vehicle-tracking, management and recovery system called 'Buddi-Track' and 'Mobi-Track', along with the 'Travel Partner' software management system. Launched February of 2001, South Africa was specifically targeted as an ideal testing ground for a trial run due to its extremely high rate of vehicle theft and hijacking. Citing exceptional results achieved in South Africa, Celtron says it plans to use this momentum to pursue opportunities to distribute its product and service offering in numerous international markets and is now establishing operations in the UK and Europe.

NamITech has teamed up with a Tanzanian consortium and is opening an office in Dar es Salaam. The company says that NamITech East Africa is the first step in the implementation of its pan-African strategy. NamITech intends to use East Africa as a hub to provide secure technology solutions to its customers in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the State IT Agency (SITA), and an association of leading South African companies have banded together to structure 'Golaganang', an initiative that aims to connect at least 50 000 families of government employees to the Internet over the next six months. Members of the group include Hewlett-Packard SA, CS Holdings, Microsoft SA, Telkom and Standard Bank. According to DPSA, these organisations will give government employees access to a package of basic technology tools and services at an affordable price, allowing cost-effective distribution of technology to a broader segment of the population. It will also stimulate a culture of digital learning, as well as help to transition the country to an information-driven economy. Golaganang is a Tswana word meaning 'come together.'

With Vodacom opening its cellular phone network in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in early May, NamITech Telecommunications says it has an order to supply it with 155 000 SIM packs, 1 million pre-paid vouchers, fulfilment packs and electronic re-loads off terminals, in an initial contract worth an estimated R20 million.

Nexgen Fibreplus, a provider and distributor of fibre-optic and copper cabling and components, has been appointed by Motorola and Alcom Radio Distributors as an 'Authorised Motorola Dealer'. It will market Motorola's range of low- and mid-tier two-way radios for commercial, networking, security and other applications in southern Africa.

Citec, a corporate Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the Johnnic Communications and M-Cell stable, has been renamed MTN Network Solutions.

Overseas

Business

Analog Devices has reported a 5% sequential increase in revenues to $413m in its fiscal second quarter, ended 4 May, compared to $393m for Q2. Analog Devices' sales were 31% lower than $601m in the fiscal second quarter last year. Net income totaled $14,4m vs. $24,7m, including a $27m nonrecurring charge for transfer of production from 4- to new 6- and 8-inch wafer fabs. ADI said that revenues from analog and DSP products both grew 5% sequentially, with analog products accounting for 77% of the quarter's total revenues.

Agilent Technologies reported sales of $1,5bn for Q2 ended 30 April, up 2% from $1,4bn in the previous period but down 39% from $2,4bn in the same period a year ago. The company also reported a net loss of $253m in the quarter, compared to a loss of $315m in the previous quarter and a net of $102m a year ago. Agilent said that based on this quarter's results, it believes that market conditions in its businesses have stabilised. The company anticipates another modest increase in third quarter revenues to about $1,50 to $1,60bn.

Companies

NEC has announced its next phase of business reorganisation to create a new NEC Group. NEC said it will spin off its semiconductor business through an initial IPO and establish a new subsidiary company in November 2002 that will focus on system LSIs, IC and discrete devices and compound semiconductor devices. This company will eventually be 70% owned by NEC. Elpida Memory, which is responsible for DRAM business, will be in operation under the control of NEC after the separation, it said. Among other steps to be taken are plans to separate NEC's colour TFT-LCD unit into a new company by October 2002. The new company, which currently has portions of its operations in NEC Kagoshima and NEC Akita, will be folded into a joint venture with China's SVA Group. NEC also intends to establish a joint venture company with Honda Motor Group in Autumn 2002, with NEC planning to own approximately a third of Honda's automotive electronics business subsidiary.

Microchip Technology has signed a definitive agreement to acquire PowerSmart, a privately held fabless semiconductor company for $54m in cash. PowerSmart is a spin-off from Duracell with about 40 employees that develops and sells high-accuracy field-programmable embedded control ICs and battery sensors based on these ICs. PowerSmart posted net sales of approximately $1 million in calendar year 2001, and is expected to contribute approximately $7 to $8m in revenue to Microchip in fiscal year 2003, and about $14 to $16m in revenue in fiscal year 2004.

Inteland LEGO, one of the world's largest toy manufacturers, and Intel, have announced a common understanding to collaborate on advancing the consumer computing experience. The two companies said they will optimise LEGO interactive software titles for Intel's leading Pentium 4 processor and engage in joint marketing campaigns and cross-promotion of products.

Hyundai Autonet has selected Motorola as its premiere telematics partner for digital entertainment and Bluetooth hands-free solutions. Motorola has combined its powerful audio processing architecture, specialised peripherals, software technologies and development tools, to create the Symphony family of audio devices.

Skyworks Solutions has been selected as the name for the new independent wireless company created through the merger of Alpha Industries and Conexant Systems.

ON Semiconductor has partnered with Intusoft as part of an initiative to equip engineers with the latest design tools to aid with simulation and analysis in the design of switch mode power supplies (SMPS). The company is offering a SPICE Simulator on CD, a complimentary version of Intusoft's latest 8.x.10 Interactive Circuit Analysis Program, ICAP/4/Windows. See www.onsemi.com/smps-eval.

Industry

Worldwide mobile phone unit sales reached 93,8 million units in the first quarter of 2002, a 3,8% decline from the first quarter of 2001, according to the latest Dataquest figures. Market-leader Nokia experienced a slight decline in global sales to end-users compared to the same quarter last year, but did manage to register a slight increase in market share versus the same quarter in 2001 despite very weak market conditions in some of its core markets, said Dataquest. Motorola's market share position continued to grow strongly in the first quarter of 2002, thanks to its continued dominance of the Chinese mobile terminal market and its strength in CDMA markets worldwide. Samsung and Siemens experienced the strongest increase in sales, with growth rates of 48,6% and 24,1%, respectively, during the quarter.

Despite being directly impacted by the effects of a downgraded mobile phone market forecast, the Bluetooth market will be strong, reports In-Stat/MDR. The firm says that, despite delays of some very large, planned 2001 chipset shipments from December to the first quarter this year, Bluetooth chipsets will surge from 10,4 million units in 2001 to 690 million units in 2006, a five-year 132% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), with silicon revenue rising to $2,7 bn in 2006. Manufactured Bluetooth-enabled equipment will climb to 644 million units over the same period. Though the mobile phone market will still outshadow all other applications, headsets will make a major Bluetooth play this year, as well as PDAs, predicts InStat.

After 25 years of strong growth, the PC industry has reached maturity and its future growth will be determined by economic conditions. New market research from eTForecasts says that future PC unit sales growth will remain below 10% and economic recessions will produce PC sales contractions as seen in 2001. However, the PC industry will see long term growth, but year-to-year growth is no longer certain. PCs-in-use will continue to grow in all regions of the world and will double by 2010 in many regions. PCs-in-use in the USA reached 175 milllion in 2001 and will pass 300 milllion by 2010. Worldwide PCs-in-use surpassed 525 milllion in 2001 and will top 1,1 billlion units in 2007. Western Europe and North America have the highest PC adoption rates and consequently will have the slowest growth rates and have the highest risk for PC sales declines during economic downturns, says eTForecasts.

The Government of the Republic of Argentina and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have agreed to cancel the ITU Telecom Americas 2003 that was to be held in Buenos Aires. ITU said it will be issuing a call for bids to its member states in the region to host the event in the year 2004 or 2005.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers in the US have put forward a proposal that the tens of thousands of cellphone towers across the nation could help limit chemical, biological or radiological attacks by hosting a network of sensors to detect harmful agents. Their proposed 'SensorNet' network would involve sophisticated sensors being devised for the US military, as well as existing software that would predict the size and movement of contaminant clouds.

Microchip Technology has announced that it shipped its two billionth PICmicro microcontroller, a PIC16F877 high-performance flash micro, to air conditioner company Carrier Corporation. In late 1999 Microchip delivered its one-billionth microcontroller after 10 years of operation, and in fewer than 30 months, has now achieved the two-billionth milestone. Said Steve Sanghi, Microchip president and CEO: "Shipping our two billionth PICmicro microcontroller is a remarkable achievement, and to be able to go from one billion microcontrollers to two billion during the worst-ever downturn in the semiconductor industry is even more rewarding." Microchip says it has 35 000 customers in more than 65 countries, has shipped 220 000 development tools, and partners with more than 120 global third-party tool manufacturers.

Technology

Keithley Instruments has introduced its Model 2701 Ethernet-based DMM/Data Acquisition System, said to be the industry's first multipoint measurement and control system that fully integrates instrument-quality, 22-bit (6,5 digit) resolution and sensitivity, with Ethernet long-distance networking. This frees users from relatively slow, hard-to-configure GPIB legacy systems, says the company.

ON Semiconductor has launched a line of silicon-based single and dual electromagnetic interference (EMI) filters as part of its MicroIntegration product line for electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. Key benefits include enhanced performance, lower total systems cost, and a reduction in circuit board real estate and the number of components required in a filtering application. The small size of the devices minimises parasitic inductance, which results in a better filtering characteristic, says ON Semiconductor.

DuPont Displays has released its first driver ICs for organic LED (OLED) technology that were developed in conjunction with Clare Micronix. The company said it expects its OLED business to yield a return on its investments in the next five years. Designed for single colour, passive-matrix polymer-based OLED displays, the driver controller combination features a 128-column current-sourcing anode driver, 80 common-cathode row drivers and 4-bit gray scale.

Royal Philips Electronics has launched a dedicated automotive software radio semiconductor solution. The SAF7730 is a dual IF car radio and audio DSP, claimed to have excellent radio and audio quality.

STMicroelectronics has introduced a low-cost family of wide-band, low-noise, low-power operational amplifiers offered in tiny packages. The TSH11x series is intended for high-volume consumer applications, such as video, ADSL and optical storage, which need high performance signal amplification and conditioning. The single-channel TSH110 and TSH111, the dual-channel TSH112, the triple-channel TSH113 and the quad-channel TSH114 are current-feedback op-amps featuring a very high slew rate of 490 V/µs and a bandwidth of 100 MHz, for a 3,5 mA current consumption.


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