TWST: What is Aetrium?
Mr. Hemer: Aetrium makes production equipment for the semiconductor industry. Our main product lines are test handlers. All computer chips are tested before they go out the door, and our handlers automate that process. So we provide productivity to the testing process. We also make reliability test systems, and those are used to check the reliability of computer chip designs and the processes that make computer chips. We were formed back in the early 1980s by three individuals who left another handler company, formed Aetrium, worked with some venture capital companies for a few years, and found themselves with some products that were not working as well as they would like. They had some dissatisfied customers and no money in the bank. That is when Joe Levesque, our President and CEO, came onboard through the venture capitalists to see if he could right the ship. That was in 1986, and Joe has been with the company ever since. As for current highlights, our newest test handler is now certified for a number of applications at one of the leading semiconductor companies in the world, and we are in the process of final evaluation for additional applications. That has us poised to increase our market share and take increasing advantage of whatever the industry conditions are.
TWST: What is the agenda for the company over the next 12 to 24 months? What would make that time frame a success?
Mr. Hemer: We are poised with our newer handler products in particular to gain customers and market share. We would measure our success over the next 12 to 24 months in terms of new customers captured. With our reliability test products, we are used by 15 out of the top 20 semiconductor companies in the world for their newer copper applications, and we intend to continue that trend and continue to capitalize in that area. But I think that our benchmarks will be in terms of our growth in our handler customer base over the next year or two.
TWST: What should investors focus on as they attempt to track and assess your performance? What matters to you?
Mr. Hemer: Revenue will be a key factor to watch for us. We believe that we will perform better than the rest of the industry in whatever the industry conditions are. It is hard to predict in our cyclical type of industry just what our markets will look like over the next year or two. Whether they are in an up cycle or a down cycle, we believe our performance will be more favorable than the rest of our peer group. As we improve our revenue structure, we have a tightly controlled cost and expense base. That allows us to drop dollars quickly to the bottom line. So profitability will be the other key factor that you should see improve for us as our revenues increase.
TWST: What compels an investor today to include Aetrium as part of their current portfolio and longer-term investment strategy?
Mr. Hemer: We believe that we are structured to address our markets successfully from a number of points. We think that our products are poised to take market share. We have a strong balance sheet. We have good fundamentals in terms of our gross margins and our operating expense ratios, which lead us to profitability per dollar that is above our peer level. So from generation of market share to generation of profitability, we are well poised to outperform our peer group.
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