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Flat Kopin hopes for 2008 WiMAX bounce

The GaAs HBT epiwafer maker reports an "industry-wide inventory correction" but expects to see traction in Wi-Fi and WiMAX drive demand in 2008.

Kopin registered $11.1 million in sales of III-V wafers during the three months that ended on September 29 - exactly the same figure that it had posted in the prior quarter.

As phone handset makers gear up for the end-of-year rush, the third quarter is usually a strong season for GaAs companies. But Kopin, which is a key materials supplier to GaAs device manufacturer Skyworks Solutions, said that the flat quarter resulted from an "industry-wide inventory correction".

With some reports of power amplifier shortages, and GaAs chip manufacturers both adding wafer capacity and reporting blow-out quarters themselves (see related stories), that correction does not appear to be widely distributed.

However, Kopin CEO John Fan does expect to see a strong finish to 2007 extend into next year: "We anticipate growth in our HBT revenues to be fueled in part by WiMAX applications as we begin 2008," he said.

Addressing US-based investors from China, Fan noted that the company had now qualified new MOCVD equipment from Aixtron for 6 inch GaAs HBT wafer manufacturing, and had begun making shipments of the material.

"There is a strong sense of demand for advanced cell phones, Wi-Fi and WiMAX in 2008," Fan said. "It should lead demand for more HBTs per phone."

The CEO added that WiMAX applications typically required PA chips with a larger die size, which could be good news for wafer suppliers.

Kopin s major focus now seems to be on the display side of its business, which in sales terms more than doubled on last year's equivalent quarter.

At $18.1 million, sales of microdisplay products were nearly twice that of its III-V wafer business. Despite the stronger showing in displays and a close customer relationship with the US Army, Kopin still posted a net loss of $0.8 million for the latest quarter.

That loss largely resulted from strong sales of cut-price displays for digital cameras, a move that Kopin made in a bid to capture market share.

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