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Record sales as MKS books major laser order

28 Jan 2021

Owner of Spectra-Physics and Ophir expecting to see further consolidation in the photonics industry.

MKS Instruments, the corporate home of a number of well-known photonics brands, has posted record sales and earnings for the final quarter of 2020.

Continued strength in the semiconductor market and a recovery in other industrial sectors using lasers and optical components pushed quarterly sales to $660 million - well above the $600 million previously forecast by the firm, and up 32 per cent on the same period in 2019.

Of that total, MKS’ “advanced markets” business unit - which includes most of the company’s photonics businesses - contributed $267 million, up 17 per cent year-on-year from $228 million.

And with an order for 80 “CapStone” precision laser microprocessing systems from the Electro Scientific Industries (ESI) division received in recent months, it appears that MKS is benefitting from renewed demand for materials processing applications in areas like solar panel, displays, and electronic component manufacturing.

CEO John Lee said in the company’s financial release: “The secular trends of miniaturization, complexity, and new materials are driving the need for precision laser processing where we are well positioned with our ‘surround the workpiece’ portfolio.”

'More room' for consolidation
Characterizing 2020 as a year of “resilience, opportunity, and growth” for MKS, Lee said that the momentum in the company’s advanced markets business unit was underpinned by a combination of renewed research laboratory spending and demand for electronics manufacturing.

The fourth-quarter sales figure seems unlikely to be a blip, with Lee and his team anticipating a slight increase on the $660 million total in the opening three months of 2021, and another full year of growth.

For 2020 overall, MKS posted a record net income of $350 million as annual sales jumped to $2.3 billion - up 20 per cent on 2019 - despite the impact of the pandemic.

That annual sales figure has risen sharply in recent years as MKS has expanded with the acquisitions of Newport and ESI in particular, and it looks like further additions could be on the cards.

Responding to an investor question about the impending merger of Coherent and Lumentum - two of the biggest businesses involved in lasers and photonics - Lee said:

“The photonics industry does have more room for consolidation, I think that that will occur. And we are certainly going to be a participant in that.”

• MKS’ CEO John Lee also highlighted that the firm’s Ophir division has been shortlisted for a Prism Award at the forthcoming SPIE Photonics West Digital Forum, which is taking place March 6-11 in an all-virtual format this year.

Ophir’s “LBS-300HP-NIR” beam splitter component for high-power lasers emitting up to 5 kW is up against a Teledyne DALSA camera and a retroreflectometer from RoadVista in the category of “quality control”. For full details of the finalists across all ten categories, visit the Prism Awards web site.

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