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Aixtron reports a good start to 2021


High order momentum especially for GaN power electronics

Aixtron SE has made a good start into the new fiscal year 2021 with strongly increased orders, revenues and net income. In light of this development, the management board has reiterated its positive guidance for the full year 2021.

"We have made a very good start to the new year. Customer demand for our systems is pleasingly high - across all three application areas of power electronics, optoelectronics and LEDs. As a result, we were able to firm up our full-year guidance for order intake and revenues at the upper end of the range and increase our EBIT margin expectations from previously 16 percent to around 18 percent," said Felix Grawert, CEO of Aixtron SE.

"With our focused investment program to further develop our leading-edge technologies and product portfolio, we have set the course at an early stage to be able to continue to satisfy our customers' demand for innovative equipment in the years to come in the best possible way," he adds.

Aixtron's order intake in the first three months of 2021 increased by 81 percent year-on-year to €124.4 million (previous year: €68.8 million). This means that Aixtron has exceeded the high order intake of the last quarter of 2020 (€92.2 million).

In the first quarter of 2021, Aixtron's equipment for the production of semiconductor devices based on gallium nitride was in particularly high demand; they are used for energy-efficient power electronics, for example for more compact and higher performing chargers, and for wireless data transmission in 5G mobile communications. The order backlog as of March 31, 2021, was €223.5 million, up around 53 percent on the prior-year quarter's level of €146.3 million.

Aixtron also improved its revenues by 21 percent to €49.5 million in the first quarter of the year. The systems for the production of devices for applications in optoelectronics were the main sales driver in the first quarter. The focus was on equipment for the production of lasers for use in optical data communication and 3D sensor technology.

Systems for the manufacture of energy-efficient power electronics based on GaN and SiC were another important sales driver. They are used, for example, for fast charging of the batteries of mobile devices such as smartphones and in the powertrain for electric vehicles.

At €17.3 million, gross profit exceeded the previous year's result (€14.6 million) by 18 percent with a gross margin of 35 percent (previous year: 36 percent). Higher sales volume effects compared to the previous year were partially offset by the impact of the weaker US dollar. Furthermore, additional expenses were incurred in the reporting quarter for preparing production capacities for the increased output planned for the second half of the year.

Ready for the future

To bring next-generation MOCVD systems for various applications to market maturity, Aixtron spent €11.9 million in the first three months of 2021 for R&D (previous year: €14.4 million). This includes lower ongoing costs for OLED technology.

Operating expenses of €18.0 million increased by 15 percent year-on-year in Q1/2021 (Q1/2020: €15.7 million). A positive one-off benefit in the previous year resulted in other operating income of €2.9 million at that time.

Aixtron's operating result (EBIT) of €-0.7 million in the first quarter of 2021 improved year-on-year (€-1.1 million), mainly due to revenue growth. The net result increased substantially to €3.8 million compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, primarily due to further recognition of deferred tax assets (Q1/2020: €-0.8 million). The manufacturer of deposition equipment achieved a gross margin of 35 percent (previous year: 36 percent) and an EBIT margin of -1 percent (previous year: -3 percent).

At €28.1 million, free cash flow in the first three months of 2021 was significantly higher than in the previous year (€3.0 million). Cash and cash equivalents including financial assets amounted to €341.0 million as of March 31, 2021 (December 31, 2020: €309.7 million) mainly due an increase in customer deposits and despite the scheduled increase in inventories for future shipments.

Aixtron's financial strength is evidenced by the continued high equity ratio of 77 percent (as of March 31, 2021), up from 84 percent as of December 31, 2020.

As announced, Bernd Schulte left the executive board at the end of his contract on March 31, 2021 and retired. As announced, Felix Grawert has been appointed Chairman of the executive board effective April 1, 2021. As of May 1, 2021, Christian Danninger will join the Aixtron executive board as the new Chief Financial Officer. Aixtron has thus completed the generation change in the executive board.

Forecast 2021: Accelerated growth

For the financial year 2021, the management board continues to expect a strong upturn in business compared to the previous year. Based on the results for the first three months of 2021 and the internal assessment of the demand development, the executive board confirms the previously issued full-year guidance with regard to order intake, revenues, and gross margin and raises it in regard to the EBIT margin. This also takes into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which at this stage is not considered to be significant for the Aixtron Group's business.

In terms of order intake, the executive board anticipates to come out at the upper end of the €340 million to €380 million range. In terms of revenues, Aixtron also expects to achieve the upper end of the €320 million to €360 million range. A gross margin of approximately 40 percent is still expected to be achieved. Due to the improved revenue expectations, the executive board is raising its EBIT margin expectation from previously 16 percent to now around 18 percent.

In addition, with a view to the Aixtron Group's newly defined sustainability targets in 2020, Aixtron is striving in the medium term to achieve a recognizable reduction in energy consumption and a significant expansion of further training measures for its employees.

As the customer discussions initiated with the previous Asian customer after qualification of the Gen2 deposition system did not lead to the envisaged result, Aixtron's subsidiary APEVA is now addressing opportunities in China with its technology for the production of OLEDs. Together with the joint venture partner H&IRUJA, the commercialisation of the OVPD core technology is to be driven forward there. To this end, APEVA will focus on the supply of key components. Successful conclusion of talks with potential customers in China is not expected before 2022.

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