19 Dec 2023
Surging demand for products used in semiconductor wafer fabrication pushes optics giant to new high.
The German optics giant Zeiss has posted record-breaking annual sales of just over €10 billion, and says it is planning to invest heavily than ever before in new infrastructure at its Oberkochen headquarters and elsewhere.
Like last year, the firm reported a 15 per cent increase in sales for the 12 months ending September 30 - although this time there was little positive impact from currency exchange rates.
The surge in sales - spearheaded by Zeiss’ semiconductor lithography optics division - delivered earnings before interest and taxes of €1.7 billion, up from €1.6 billion a year ago.
CEO Karl Lamprecht promised that the company, owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation, would once again be investing its profits into future technological developments, saying:
“To be able to continue on this dynamic growth path in the future, we need to set the right course now. We are doing this by investing huge sums in our further development.
“Our success is based on our distinctive innovative strength. To ensure this continues, we have invested 15 per cent of revenue in research and development, personnel development and infrastructure - more than ever before.”
The latest figures show how semiconductor lithography has driven much of the Zeiss momentum over the past few years.
At €3.6 billion, the semiconductor manufacturing technology business unit’s sales figure was up 29 per cent on the previous year - and nearly double the total recorded as recently as 2020.
“The high demand for lithography systems for deep ultraviolet (DUV) and extreme ultraviolet (EUV), as well as the first delivery of the optical system for high-NA (numerical aperture) technology to our customer and strategic partner ASML contributed to growth,” stated the firm, whose SMT division is part-owned by ASML.
“In the future, the next EUV generation, high-NA EUV, will enable the production of more powerful and more energy-efficient chips at lower cost.”
The firm’s second-largest division by sales is still medical technology, whose turnover grew 11 per cent to €2.5 billion. “The stabilization of supply chains, particularly in the second half of the fiscal year, and accelerated deliveries in the areas of ophthalmology and microsurgery made a positive contribution to revenue growth,” observed Zeiss.
The firm’s industrial and consumer divisions both also posted healthy rates of growth even though, as Zeiss points out, high inflation and associated uncertainty among consumers has resulted in a reluctance to spend among many.
Looking ahead, Lamprecht indicated that although Zeiss would likely grow its sales further in 2024, increased geopolitical tensions and unpredictability was increasing risks to business.
“In order to continue to grow profitably in the long term and, at the same time, be resilient in rapidly changing times, Zeiss must continue to develop,” he added. “In addition to enormous innovative strength, this comprehensive development includes the transformation towards a data and process-driven company. Now is the right time to press ahead at full speed.”
Plans already afoot include further expansion of the Oberkochen site, with additional investment at its other locations in Germany - potentially at its original headquarters in Jena.
“Zeiss is bigger than ever and continues to grow,” said the CEO. “As such, almost 18,000 new employees have joined the company in the past seven years alone.
“We are expanding our capacity and therefore investing around €3.5 billion over the next five years in infrastructure - more than ever before.
“A large proportion of this will flow into infrastructure projects specifically in Germany, such as the further expansion of the Oberkochen site, a new site in Aalen-Ebnat, or the site of the company’s foundation in Jena.”