Silicon on insulator firm completes fiscal year with 4 percent organic growth
Soitec, a semiconductor materials company, has announced consolidated revenues of €70.5 million for Q4 FY’17 (ended March 31st 2017), up 8 percent compared with €65.4 million in Q4 FY’16. It ended its fiscal year with 4 percent growth.
Paul Boudre, Soitec’s CEO and chairman commented: “We delivered a solid performance in the fourth quarter, boosted by a surge in FD-SOI [fully depleted silicon on insulator] and emerging SOI wafer sales. We end up our fiscal year with a 4 percent organic growth, which is in line with our expectations given the strong anticipated decline in PD-SOI [partially depleted SOI] products that we actually faced.”
There have been significant milestones for the company’s FD-SOI technology since early 2017 starting with GlobalFoundries plans to invest in 22FDX 22nm FD-SOI capacity growth in Germany and China.
NXP will also be tapping into Soitec’s FD-SOI technology, according to Boudre, for ultra-low power processors designed for IoT, home control and wearables but also for processors designed for automotive and industrial applications.
On the basis of the level of sales achieved in Q4 FY’17, Soitec expects its FY’17 EBITDA margin in electronics to reach a minimum level of 16.5 percent. Regarding its first quarter of FY’18 sales, Soitec expects growth to be at least 20 percent at constant exchange rates compared to the first quarter of FY’17.
Q4 sales by product line
Communication & Power
In Q4 FY’17, demand for both RF (RF-SOI) and power electronics (Power-SOI) products dedicated to the mobile and automotive markets respectively continued to drive the sales of 200-mm wafers whilst the sales of RF 300-mm wafers remained modest.
The RF-SOI substrates product line (SOI for radio-frequency applications) continues to be driven by the growing needs for smartphones, as it helps coping with the rising number of frequency bands and higher data speed requirements to meet 4G/LTE-Advanced mobile communications.
In the digital segment, Q4 FY’17 revenues related to PD-SOI 300-mm wafers (partially depleted silicon-on-insulator for ASICs, servers and networking applications) remained at the same residual level that had already been reached in Q3 FY’17.
Revenues from FD-SOI wafers (fully depleted silicon-on-insulator for digital mobile and low power applications such as smartphones, automotive, consumer electronics, Internet-of-Things) have further increased but continued to mostly reflect the ongoing qualification process at some foundries with their fabless customers.
In the meantime, sales of SOI substrates for emerging applications, such as Silicon Photonics and Imagers, enjoyed a solid growth.
Excluding revenues from royalties and intellectual property, total 200-mm and 300-mm wafer sales were up 9 percent in Q4 FY’17 at constant exchange rates compared with Q4 FY’161.
200-mm wafer sales
Sales of 200-mm wafers (67 percent of total sales) went up 7 percent at constant exchange rates in Q4 FY’17 compared with Q4 FY’161. This is reflecting an increase in the volume of RF-SOI and Power-SOI wafers sold, which was made possible thanks to the improvement plan implemented at the Bernin I 200-mm production site during the first part of FY’17.
The site continued to operate at full capacity in Q4 FY’17. The volumes produced at Bernin I were complemented by the sale of a few thousands 200-mm wafers produced by Simgui’s manufacturing facility in Shanghai, using Soitec’s proprietary Smart Cut technology. On a sequential basis, sales of 200-mm wafers however declined by 3 percent at constant exchange rates compared to Q3 FY’17 due to a slightly different product mix.
300-mm wafer sales
Sales of 300-mm wafers in Q4 FY’17 (30 percent of total sales) were up 14 percent at constant exchange rates compared with Q4 FY’16. This is the result of combination of: a sharp but anticipated decline of the PD-SOI product line; a higher level of sales of FD-SOI products; and an increase in other 300-mm products, in particular new Emerging SOI products for digital applications.
On a sequential basis, 300-mm wafer sales of Q4 FY’17 were 57 percent higher at constant exchange rates compared to Q3 FY’17, confirming the expected strong rebound at the Bernin II 300-mm production site. This rebound, which had already started to materialize in Q3 FY’17 after the low point reached in the second quarter of FY’17, is due to an increase in sales of FD-SOI products as well as other 300-mm products, in particular RF 300-mm products and new Emerging SOI products.
Royalties and intellectual property
Revenues from royalties and intellectual property (3 percent of total sales) reached 2.0 million Euros in Q4 FY’17, compared with the exceptionally high level of 5.0 million Euros recorded in Q4 the previous fiscal year. This represents a 61 percent drop at constant exchange rates.
Ramp-up of 200-mm China manufacturing
Early March 2017, Soitec announced the beginning of the ramping-up of the production of 200-mm SOI wafers at Simgui’s Shanghai-based manufacturing facility in using Soitec’s proprietary Smart Cut technology. Simgui’s site has now been fully qualified by Soitec key customers. This is a significant milestone for Soitec in managing its worldwide manufacturing capacity to meet market demand for 200-mm SOI wafers.
Additional customers are currently in the process of qualifying the wafers. Producing the wafers in China has been a key objective of the licensing and technology-transfer agreement signed in May 2014 by Soitec and its Chinese partner. It validates Smart Cut as a standard process. This wafer production line in China will boost the industrial manufacturing capacity of 200-mm SOI wafers to meet increasing worldwide usage and also will be a key element in establishing the SOI ecosystem in China.
End of patent lawsuit with SiGen
At the end of March 2017, Soitec and Silicon Genesis Corporation (SiGen) have successfully brought to an end their dispute regarding the importation and sale in the United States of certain silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers.
Both companies have agreed to dismiss all pending litigations including the proceedings in front of the US International Trade Commission (USITC). This agreement reinforces Soitec’s intellectual property position and allows the company to better serve and protect Soitec’s customers and business partners.