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Omnivision surprises with upbeat guidance call

24 Feb 2012

Leading producer of CMOS sensors for consumer electronics applications is hit by falling prices in latest quarter, but sees upturn coming.

Omnivision, the California-based developer of image sensors based on silicon CMOS technology, has reported a sharp fall in revenues for its third quarter of fiscal 2012, which ended on January 31.

But despite a 30% year-on-year decline in sales to $185.2 million, the company’s share price bounced 10% in early trading following the announcement, after executives said that sales in the current quarter would jump to between $195 million and $215 million – higher than analysts had expected.

The Q3 figure also represented a smaller-than-expected decline in revenues, which were down only 15% sequentially and above the high end of Omnivision’s prior guidance for the period.

While the smart phone market, which has been the single largest driver for sales of high-end sensors in recent times, is now expected to be steady, it is the sector that Omnivision calls “entertainment” – and which includes tablet PC applications – where the company is anticipating a real surge of demand in the current quarter, said VP of worldwide sales Ray Cisneros.

In the quarter just completed, phone applications accounted for 52% of sales (down from 60% in the prior quarter), while “entertainment” applications were behind 28% of sales (up from 20%). That means that sales for phone applications have plummeted over the past year, and this part of the business was described by one analyst as “falling off a cliff”.

One problem is that the average selling price (ASP) of Omnivision’s sensors dropped markedly in the latest quarter, to $1.29 (from $1.42 in the prior quarter), while unit sales dropped to 143 million from 153 million sequentially. Last year, Omnivision was reported to have lost its spot as a sole-source supplier for the Apple iPhone 4S, after a tear-down of the handset by Chipworks found a sensor made by Sony in the key slot.

Nevertheless, Omnivision remains a dominant player in the CMOS market as far as consumer applications are concerned, with an estimated share in excess of 50% for both notebook PC webcams and security applications. Its share in smart phones has been put at around one-third by analysts.

In the automotive market, where Omnivision’s market share is somewhat lower, at around one-quarter, the company has just released to mass production two new products intended for the growing number of driver-assist camera applications.

The OV10630 and the OV10635, described as the company’s flagship automotive image sensors, have both received AEC-Q100 Grade 2 performance qualifications, and are set to ship to customers.

Both sensors use Omnivision’s split-pixel technology, in which the information for the high dynamic range multi-capture is sampled simultaneously from the scene rather than sequentially. This is said to minimize motion artifacts, yielding superior image quality in the most demanding automotive dynamic scene conditions.

AlluxaIDS Imaging Development SystemsTeledyne LumeneraLASEROPTIK GmbHHÜBNER PhotonicsJenLab GmbHEKSMA Optics
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