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Expanding MKS posts record sales figure

03 Aug 2021

Constrained supply of electronic components does little to slow momentum as investment in photonics pays dividends.

MKS Instruments, the industrial technology company whose portfolio includes a number of major optics and photonics brands, has posted quarterly sales of $750 million - the highest total ever registered by the firm.

The revenue figure for the three months ending June 30 represented an increase of nearly 40 per cent on the same period last year, which was severely impacted by the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sales were also up sharply on the March quarter, although the global shortage of electronic components is expected to have an impact as the year unfolds.

CEO John Lee said: “Business levels remain strong and excluding the headwinds we are seeing with supply constraints, we would have expected revenue in the third quarter to grow sequentially.”

As a result, Lee and his executive team think that sales in the September quarter will decrease somewhat, to around $720 million - although the level of uncertainty surrounding the electronics supply chain means that this total could be $30 million higher or lower than the central prediction.

ESI corporate video: Geode laser via drilling system:

Lasers and optics
Lee told an investor conference call discussing the latest results that booming sales of laser-based products - largely acquired through merger deals with photonics company Newport Corporation and micromachining systems firm Electro Scientific Industries (ESI) - were contributing strongly to the current growth spurt.

“That's driven by several industrial applications, [and] also solar and advanced electronics manufacturing,” the CEO said.

“And then more importantly, we're seeing the first volume shipments in our picosecond UV laser design. We've talked about a lot of design wins over the last 18 months, and some of those are now turning into volume orders.”

Other key areas include optics products used in semiconductor wafer processing. “The investments we have made in our world-class optics initiative are paying off as we secured ten design wins in the second quarter alone, eight of which were semiconductor applications,” Lee noted.

“Specifically, we are seeing increased interest in shorter-wavelength applications with a number of EUV (extreme ultraviolet) design wins in the quarter.”

However, Lee stressed that the Massachusetts-headquartered company sees opportunities in semiconductor production for photonics applications well beyond optics.

“We secured a notable design win for our new picosecond UV laser solution for a back-end semiconductor application,” he said.

Expanding portfolio
Further momentum is coming from the ESI subsidiary, whose “Capstone” laser system for precision drilling of PCBs is proving popular in 5G phone production and has recently been specified by a major producer in Korea.

ESI’s “Geode” drilling systems, which are based around carbon dioxide lasers (see video above), have also found customer traction in the form of an order placed by Chinese manufacturing giant TTM Technologies.

Meanwhile, after failing in its bid to acquire laser giant Coherent earlier this year, MKS continues to expand its portfolio of optics-related offerings through acquisitions.

The firm recently concluded a deal to buy Canada’s Photon Control, which provides a range of fiber-optic temperature and position sensors. And last month’s $5 billion agreement to acquire Atotech should see MKS add to its offerings in PCB manufacturing.

Lee said previously that by combining MKS’ capabilities in lasers, optics, and motion with Atotech’s process chemistry expertise, the combined company will “optimize the PCB interconnect”.

The CEO believes that the technologies involved will be critical to enabling future generations of advanced electronics featuring unprecedented miniaturization and complexity.

• In tandem with the record sales figure, MKS saw its net income for the quarter double year-on-year, to $147 million. Despite announcing that, plus a quarterly dividend payout of $0.22 per share, the firm’s stock price slipped a little on news of the constrained outlook. Trading at just over $150 on the Nasdaq, MKS’ market capitalization now stands close to $9 billion.

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