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IQE sales recovery aided by microLED design wins

16 Jan 2024

But compound semiconductor wafer foundry still expects to post large drop in annual revenues.

IQE, the London-listed compound semiconductor foundry, says it is now expecting to post annual sales revenues of “at least” £115 million for 2023, after something of a rebound in the second half of the year.

However, that figure will still be around 30 per cent down on the 2022 total of just over £167 million, following a year impacted by customers’ earlier stockpiling of products and subsequent inventory corrections.

Partly as a result of those corrections, IQE posted sales of only £52 million for the opening half of 2023 - down from £86 million for the equivalent period in 2022 - alongside an operating loss of close to £20 million.

The latest update implies that revenues bounced back to around $63 million in the second half of 2023, in line with earlier indications from the company.

MicroLED traction
Americo Lemos, who became IQE’s CEO two years ago, said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange:

“I am pleased our business performance was aligned to guidance despite a challenging macro environment. We returned to growth from H1 to H2 2023 and expect this positive trajectory to continue in 2024.

“Additionally, we made significant progress implementing our diversification strategy, expanding our customer engagement pipeline and securing multiple design wins in GaN [i.e. gallium nitride] power and microLED markets.

“Our strategic investment in GaN capacity in 2023 is anticipated to unlock further opportunities throughout 2024.”

In the emerging microLED sector, which is tipped for eventual commercial success in displays for augmented reality (AR) devices, IQE previously agreed a deal to provide Belgium-based imec spin-out Micledi Microdisplays with the ability to scale production of microLEDs to volume levels, and is also known to be working with UK-based startup Porotech.

Back in May last year, IQE launched of a new portfolio of 200 mm wafer-diameter red, green and blue epitaxial wafer products for microLED display qualification, seeing the sector as a disruptive new display technology in both AR headsets and large-format displays.

“By scaling the technology roadmap from 200 mm to 300 mm, IQE will provide the industry with a cost-effective solution,” added the company at the time.

Micledi is now believed to have developed the world’s first solution for microLED manufacturing with a 300 mm CMOS line - the standard wafer size for volume production of silicon semiconductor devices.

And last month Porotech agreed a strategic partnership with Chinese contract manufacturing giant Hon Hai - the iPhone maker also known as Foxconn - aimed at scaling production for AR devices.

Raytheon qualification and new executives
Meanwhile, IQE says that the defense contractor giant Raytheon has now qualified its North Carolina site for the manufacture of epitaxial wafers to be used to make photodetectors for advanced infrared sensing and imaging applications.

“Having received a Raytheon Premier Supplier Excellence Award, this qualification demonstrates the continued confidence that Raytheon has in IQE,” commented Lemos.

Other recent developments have seen IQE make two executive appointments: Rina Pal-Goetzen takes on the newly created role of VP of government affairs, while Jutta Meier is moving from a senior finance role at Intel to become IQE’s new CFO.

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