Wed, Feb. 11, 5:35 PM
Sat, Feb. 7, 3:09 PM
- "We have developed a new product that will provide sapphire-like scratch resistance while maintaining the legendary toughness and break resistance of Gorilla Glass," Corning (NYSE:GLW) exec James Clappin stated at yesterday's investor meeting. Corning plans to start selling the composite, known for now as Project Phire, later this year.
- Though Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stuck with Gorilla Glass for the iPhone 6 and would-be Apple sapphire supplier GT Advanced (OTCPK:GTATQ) filed for bankruptcy - it's now trying to sell ~2K sapphire furnaces to pay off creditors, with stockholders getting anything left over - there's still strong industry interest in sapphire as a potential smartphone cover glass solution due to its scratch-resistance and thinness; Apple has said it will "continue evaluating" GT's sapphire progress.
- Meanwhile, Apple Watch and other smartwatches have adopted sapphire cover glass, and sapphire wafer/materials provider Rubicon (NASDAQ:RBCN) recently announced it's working on "scratch-resistant sapphire-coated faceplates for smartphones and larger devices," as part of a broader effort to expand into new markets. Concerns about the material's cost and brittleness remain.
- Also disclosed by Corning: 1) The Display Technologies (LCD glass) segment is expected to see 2015 earnings growth comparable with 2014 levels. 2) Corning's glass sales related to large-size LCD TVs rose over 50% in 2014 on a unit basis; it forecasts 30%+ growth in large-size LCD viewing area by 2016. 3) The Optical Communications (fiber) business is expected to see high-single digit 2015 growth, aided by strong sales to the last-mile fiber, data center, and distributed antenna markets. (investor day slides)
Mon, Feb. 2, 7:17 PM
- Hap Hewes, a senior Rubicon (NASDAQ:RBCN) exec from 2004-2009, has been re-hired as its SVP of Optical. He'll be in charge of "marketing and business development activity for sapphire products in the aerospace, optical, consumer electronics and industrial markets."
- Rubicon, hungry to lower its exposure to an LED sapphire wafer market plagued by intense price pressure, adds it's working on a several new products for the aforementioned markets. They include "very large, thick sapphire plates for aerospace and defense, scratch-resistant sapphire-coated faceplates for smartphones and larger devices, and a new sapphire growth process." The last product is said to "produce solid sapphire faceplates in the desired net shape, eliminating nearly all of the fabrication costs."
- While would-be Apple sapphire supplier GT Advanced famously filed for bankruptcy after failing to meet tech milestones, mobile industry interest in sapphire cover glass - thinner and more scratch-resistant than Corning's (NYSE:GLW) Gorilla Glass, but also costlier and possibly more brittle - remains high.
- Rubicon's Q4 report arrives on Feb. 12.
Dec. 23, 2014, 2:15 PM
- Digitimes reports Xiaomi (now one of the world's 5 biggest smartphone OEMs) is likely to use sapphire cover glass to protect the Xiaomi 5, a 5.7" flagship phone to be unveiled at CES. The site observes "existing sapphire production capacity is not sufficient" to meet Xiaomi's needs, should it go ahead with its plans.
- Kyocera and Huawei have launched low-volume phones with sapphire cover glass, which is thinner, more scratch-resistant, much more costly, and potentially more brittle than Corning's mainstay Gorilla Glass. Apple, of course, opted not to use sapphire cover glass for the iPhone 6, and saw would-be sapphire supplier GT Advanced file for bankruptcy.
- The report could be giving a lift to Rubicon (NASDAQ:RBCN). Even if the company's sapphire materials aren't used to produce Xiaomi's cover glass, the company would benefit from improved industry demand/pricing, provided volumes are significant.
- Yesterday: China reportedly ending LED subsidies
Dec. 22, 2014, 3:51 PM
- Taiwanese LED industry sources tell Digitimes the Chinese government "has ordered its subordinate agencies and local governments to stop offering subsidies and tax incentives for China-based LED epitaxial wafer and chip makers because such offering has disrupted market mechanisms and may violate WTO rules."
- Cree (CREE +3%), which has lost mid-power LED chip share to low-cost Chinese manufacturers, could benefit from the ending of subsidies. As might Taiwan's SemiLEDs (LEDS +6.3%) and U.S. LED wafer supplier Rubicon (RBCN -3.5%).
- On the other hand, equipment suppliers Veeco (VECO +2%) and Aixtron (AIXG -1.2%) could see their Chinese orders slump. Aixtron soared in September after landing a major order from Chinese LED chipmaker San'an Optoelectronics. Digitimes notes San'an has received generous subsidies from the Xiamen city government, and has placed major orders with both Aixtron and Veeco.
Dec. 15, 2014, 4:48 PM
Nov. 28, 2014, 3:43 PM
- Taiwanese supply chain firms talking to Digitimes expect the total value of LED lighting output to rise 30% next year, with a doubling of shipments more than offsetting 30%-35% price drops. Research firm LEDinside expects shipment value to grow to $25.7B, or 31.3% of total lighting shipment value.
- On the other hand, the LED backlighting market is expected to continue declining, as prices continue falling and newer LED TVs require fewer chips.
- Though its LED chip/component business has been hit hard by a demand shift towards mid-power LED sales (often used for indoor lighting), CREE's LED lighting product sales are still growing briskly: They rose 51% Y/Y in calendar Q3 to $223.1M. Component/chip sales were down 20% to $173.6M.
- Wafer vendor Rubicon (NASDAQ:RBCN) expects a weak backlighting market to exact a heavy toll on its Q4 results. Demand is expected to pick up in Q1.
- Other industry names: AIXG, VECO, LEDS
Nov. 7, 2014, 4:57 PM
- Initially lower after posting mixed Q3 results and once more providing a downbeat outlook, Rubicon (NASDAQ:RBCN) finished the day up 9.6%.
- The sapphire wafer vendor notes industry oversupply led pricing for 2" core wafers to fall 30% Q/Q in Q3. It's seeing "increasing interest in two-inch material" in Q4, but also declares 4" demand to be "very weak" due to above-normal LED backlighting market seasonality.
- Q4 revenue is expected to be "similar" to a Q3 level of $8M; that puts it below an $11.5M consensus. EPS is expected to be in a range of -$0.38 to -$0.42, below a -$0.35 consensus. Rubicon expects revenue to rise in Q1 2015, aided by improving 4" wafer demand.
- A $9.5M gross loss was seen in Q3 on $8M in revenue. GAAP opex rose 34% Y/Y to $4.4M.
- Rubicon ended Q3 with $53M in cash/investments (compares with a $115M market cap), and no debt.
- Q3 results, PR
Nov. 6, 2014, 4:08 PM
Oct. 22, 2014, 2:50 PM
- Canaccord and D.A. Davidson have downgraded Cree (CREE -16.7%) to neutral ratings after the company offered a weaker-than-expected FQ2 outlook and reported a 580 bps Q/Q gross margin drop.
- Canaccord's Jonathan Dorsheimer, who wasn't quite enthusiastic about reiterating a Buy following Cree's Oct. 2 FQ1 warning: "In spite of the fact that we may be...marking the bottom for CREE shares, we simply fail to see a potentially positive catalyst ... Our thesis was based around the transition from captive to merchant sales in Cree’s components [business], which at best has been pushed by 6-9 months now."
- He adds Canaccord's research confirms Cree has lost LED component share to Philips' Lumileds unit, and that a shift towards mid-power LED sales in China is also taking a toll.
- Cowen's Jeffrey Osborne (Market Perform) thinks margins will stabilize as Cree cuts factory output, continues seeing healthy lighting and power/RF growth, and gets a lighting margin boost from a mix shift to non-bulb lighting products. He's still cautious on account of Cree's near-term LED component challenges, but expects the company's technology strengths will help its cause long-term.
- Fellow LED industry names Rubicon (RBCN -2.3%), Veeco (VECO -3.7%), and Aixtron (AIXG -2.5%) are also lower.
Oct. 10, 2014, 12:45 PM
Oct. 7, 2014, 5:40 PM
Oct. 7, 2014, 12:45 PM
Oct. 7, 2014, 10:31 AM
- With GT Advanced having filed for bankruptcy, speculation that Rubicon's (NASDAQ:RBCN) sapphire materials could be used to pick up the slack has grown
- Though best known for its wafers, a page on Rubicon's site notes the company also provides 2" sapphire ingots for camera lens cover and biometric applications, as well as "rectangular blocks ready to be sliced into smartphone faceplates and custom shapes such as smart-watch face plates." (h/t Notable Calls)
- Also: If GT Advanced's sapphire capacity was removed from the market (remains to be seen), Rubicon could benefit from the diminished industry supply even in the absence of an Apple deal.
- Apple is using sapphire cover glass for two of its three smartwatch models, but opted against using it on the iPhone 6, reportedly due to technical shortcomings.
- Rubicon has recovered most of the Monday losses it saw in response to GT's filing. Shares dove to a new 52-week low of $3.56 yesterday before bouncing.
Oct. 6, 2014, 12:46 PM
Oct. 6, 2014, 10:41 AM
Rubicon Technology Inc is an electronic materials provider that develops, manufactures and sells monocrystalline sapphire and other crystalline products for LEDs, RFICs, blue laser diodes, optoelectronics and other optical applications.
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