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Lithography giant axes workforce

08 Aug 2003

ASML, the world’s largest supplier of lithography systems, is cutting 550 jobs, 11% of its workforce.

Netherlands-based ASML, the world's biggest supplier of lithography systems, is to cut its workforce by a further 550 - 11% of the company's workforce. The move affects 400 jobs in Europe.

The company, which sold 41 lithography systems with a total value of EURO 329 million in its latest quarter, said that although the semiconductor industry appeared to have reached the bottom of its cycle, the timing of any upturn remained uncertain. Its latest sales figures are 46% down on last year, reflecting a drop in both the number of systems shipped and the average selling price.

ASML chief executive Doug Dunn said: "There are signs of semiconductor unit sales growth, [but] many chipmakers who have continued to increase their productivity are still using fabrication capacity at rates below levels needed to justify large capital investments."

In the three years since the semiconductor market last peaked, capital equipment spending by chipmakers had dropped by more than 50%, continued Dunn. "We're facing cautious investment sentiment, competitive pressure and a smaller market for lithography products."

ASML's latest restructuring efforts will see the total workforce drop to approximately 4650, said the company.

However, there may be an end in sight to the gloom hanging over ASML and the rest of the lithography market - that's according to the US market research firm Gartner. It is predicting a sharp upturn in semiconductor capital equipment spending next year, following aggressive increases in spending by Japanese companies and Samsung in particular.

Gartner's analysis predicts increases of almost 40% in capital expenditure across all sectors in 2004.

Meanwhile, Micronic Laser Systems of Sweden and ASML are set to launch a joint-venture company to focus on optical maskless lithography. The technology is seen as a possible solution to the escalating cost of mask generation.

Michael Hatcher is technology editor of Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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