Tier-1 LED makers see high utilization, but MOCVD demand won’t leap

July 20, 2012 — Maxim Group LLC analyzed metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) utilization and revenues at light emitting diode (LED) makers in Taiwan, finding that MOCVD orders are placed just to maintain capacity, not add, and high utilization rates are only at the top LED makers.

The next uptick in MOCVD spending is likely to “fall far short” of the peak seen in 2010-2011, Maxim reported. The analysts expect H2 2012 MOCVD orders at about 130 tools.

High tool utilization reports are coming from Epistar, ForEpi, and Genesis Photonics. Large LED players like Sanan are expanding in H2 2012. Epistar is planning new LED fabs (Miaoli and Fujian) by 2014. Still, near-term spending doesn’t signifies a return to growth, but instead what is needed to maintain spending levels in 2H 2012 and 2013, Maxim said. Higher MOCVD utilization rates are not the norm across all LED makers, but rather at sector leaders.

Figure. Revenue Rebound Points to High Utilization at Epistar and Genesis Photonics but Not Others

After falling three quarters in a row, revenue at seven Taiwanese LED chip makers jumped 29% Q/Q in Q2 2012 on a rebound in display backlighting applications. While this has driven utilization at high-quality vendors with exposure to general lighting like Epistar to >95%, Maxim estimated small, lower-quality players remain at ~70%. With Taiwan’s TV subsidy ending and Europe entering a recession, Maxim does not expect backlighting to drive a new wave of MOCVD spending.

Also read: LED cost and manufacturing topics of Veeco LED maker gathering in Taiwan

Lower subsidies and lower profitability will keep MOCVD spending in check, unlike 2010-2011. Maxim does not see a traditional cyclical downturn/boom, despite some pick up once general lighting adopts LEDs. In 2013-2014, expect MOCVD tool orders to hit about 300 systems, far below the peak numbers of 700+.

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