Historically, the mainstream semiconductor equipment suppliers see a significant upturn in business after a downturn, approximately a year behind the IC manufacturers. However the signs are clearly showing that some of the suppliers are returning to profitability on the back of stronger order intake in the third quarter of 2009 and guiding stronger shipments through the next few quarters, sparking what seems to be an end to the current downturn for them.
Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates (VSEA) posted its fourth-quarter 2009 revenue at US$117.5 million, above guidance of US$104 million to US$114 million, which was $44.1 million above the previous quarter.
Varian noted in its quarterly conference call with analysts that the foundry market led the sales recovery with unit shipments equating to 59% of sales, the highest it has been for years.
Another sign of recovery was the fact that Varian’s headcount has increased, barely a year since some drastic headcount reductions were implemented as the industry hit the breaks and went into freefall. The company noted that its headcount was now 1,345, up from 1,280 at the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2009, which comprised of manufacturing personnel and some for R&D.
Having been the dominant leader in ion implant tools after more than five-years of strong market gains due to its early migration to 300mm single wafer processing, when mains rivals at the time, Applied Materials and Axcelis kept with batch tool configurations has yet to reach its peak.
In the call VSEA’s CEO Gary Dickerson, noted that he expects its total share of the implant market to reach 70% in 2009.
To back that up, Dickerson guided sales for the final quarter of 2009, to reach between US$134 million and US$144 million. The increase in revenue was said to still come from foundries but noted that the company was seeing a memory market pick up that would be more aggressive in the March quarter of 2010.