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China rebound aids Rofin laser sales

08 Aug 2014

'Clear recovery' in demand for machine tools from the world’s key manufacturing location, says CEO Günther Braun.

Industrial laser company Rofin-Sinar has posted a decrease in both sales and profit for its latest financial quarter, despite a rebound in demand from Chinese machine tool customers.

At $134.3 million, revenues for the three months that ended June 30 were down 3 per cent from the same period last year, while net income fell by a quarter to $6.5 million.

CEO Günther Braun said that the stronger demand from China and the semiconductor manufacturing sector was offset by significant drop in sales for applications consumer electronics and negligible demand for photovoltaics production.

“Sales to the automotive and medical device industries were stable, whereas consumer electronics sales were significantly below last fiscal year’s third quarter level,” he told investors, adding that incoming orders had increased – particularly outside of Europe.

“North American orders improved by 19 per cent and Asian orders by 27 per cent, mainly supported by the machine tool and semiconductor industries,” said the CEO. “Based on the current global economy and the $10 million increased backlog at the end of June 2014, we are confident in delivering improved results in the fourth quarter.”

And although European orders were up only 3 per cent in comparison, Braun described the economic picture in the continent as “robust”, despite various ongoing political irritations.

He told an investor call that demand for the company’s high-power carbon dioxide lasers in China had stabilized, while that for new high-power fiber lasers continued to increase – meaning that in terms of Rofin’s production, the split between the two technologies was now approximately 50/50.

Fiber laser bookings up
Braun also said that bookings for high-power fiber lasers in the latest quarter were the best that Rofin had seen so far, with new customers being added in China. Fiber laser sales in the latest quarter were $17.8 million (and 200 units), while just under half of a $38.7 million backlog now relates to high-power fiber lasers.

Rofin has long been playing catch-up with fiber laser market leader IPG Photonics, but is hopeful of competing better on pricing with the release of new 300 W pump modules, which are now set to be introduced by the end of calendar 2014. Further competitiveness should result from an impending switch to its own internally manufactured diode chips, due in the current quarter.

With sales in the closing quarter of the company’s fiscal year expected to come in at between $142 million and $147 million, Rofin is likely to post full-year sales of between $526 million and $531 million. That would represent a decrease on the prior year, when the company posted full-year revenues of $560 million. Much of that difference, says Braun, comes from the lower recent sales for consumer electronics and solar manufacturing.

Looking to the future, the CEO said that he saw a big opportunity for laser processing of brittle materials – like glass and sapphire – where Rofin entered the fray earlier this year through the acquisition of US-based FiLaser's assets. The proprietary “burst mode” ultrafast laser technique developed by FiLaser is said to be protected by some robust intellectual property.

Braun told investors that Rofin has now begun generating quotes for customers interested in using the FiLaser process, following an overwhelmingly positive response during an extensive period of sampling.

AlluxaMad City Labs, Inc.Iridian Spectral TechnologiesUniverse Kogaku America Inc.Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationHÜBNER PhotonicsSPECTROGON AB
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