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Spectrolab Leads Veeco Solar Pull

Veeco has crept back into profit, as it reports deals with new Asian LED customers and increasing interest in III-V solar.

As Veeco Instruments high-volume reactors battle it out with Aixtron products in the LED sector, Spectrolab has boosted its solar cell reputation with a multiple MOCVD system order from the US equipment supplier.

The order for arsenide and phosphide semiconductor systems has helped drive Veeco's bookings from LED and solar cell companies up to $52.1 million in the second quarter of 2008. This figure is up 35 percent from the previous three months and 43 percent year-on-year.

“Veeco MOCVD and MBE are seeing market pull for III-V concentrator and thin-film solar applications from both research institutes and commercial companies," said CEO John Peeler. The interest in reactors for solar application came predominantly from Europe and the US, he said, in contrast to the continued dominance of Asia in demand for LED manufacturing equipment.

“In the second quarter we received multi-unit orders from five LED manufacturers in Taiwan and China, several of which were first-time Veeco customers," Peeler said.

Such orders are crucial as the company's latest TurboDisc K465 GaN LED reactor line tries to make up ground lost to tools launched earlier by Aixtron.

“Aixtron released its newer generation product a little ahead of us and they received some very strong orders," Peeler said. “It's early to talk about share gain, but our product's getting great feedback and we think it has compelling advantages in terms of throughput and productivity."

Revenues from the LED/solar part of Veeco's business grew to $45.1 million, up from $28 million received over the same period in 2007. However, these figures were only up by 7 percent sequentially. Veeco said that shipment delays caused by LED customers who are behind schedule in constructing new manufacturing facilities had contributed to a nearly $10 million buildup in its inventory over the quarter.

Ramping III-V reactor production has further bolstered the Plainview, New York, company's finances as simply making more tools improves its overall profit margin.

These factors all helped Veeco to a $4.2 million net profit - its first since the first quarter of 2007 - but for the next quarter it is predicting a return to loss. This is thanks to a number of exceptional charges, including a $3.7 million expense charged against the departure of Ed Braun from his former role as CEO of the company.

• Veeco s stock enjoyed a significant boost after the company released the latest quarterly results. In early trading on July 29, shares in the company rose above $18 - a 20 per cent premium on the July 28 closing price.

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