AVX Corporation (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, "AVX" or the "Company") is a leading worldwide manufacturer and supplier of a broad line of passive electronic components and related products. Virtually all types of electronic devices use our passive component products to store, filter or regulate electric energy.
Our passive electronic component products include ceramic and tantalum capacitors, film capacitors, varistors, filters and other components manufactured in our facilities throughout the world and passive components manufactured by Kyocera Corporation of Japan ("Kyocera"), a public company and our majority stockholder which owns approximately 71% of our outstanding common stock. We also manufacture and sell electronic connectors and inter-connect systems and distribute and sell certain electronic connectors manufactured by Kyocera.
We are organized by product line with five main product groups. Our reportable segments are based on the types of products from which we generate revenues. We have three reportable segments: Passive Components, Kyocera Electronic Devices ("KED Resale") and Connectors. The product groups of Ceramic Components, Advanced Components and Tantalum Components have been aggregated into the Passive Component reportable segment. Segment revenue and profit information is presented in Note 15 to the consolidated financial statements. The Passive Components segment consists primarily of surface mount and leaded ceramic capacitors, RF thick and thin film components, tantalum capacitors, film capacitors, ceramic and film power capacitors, super capacitors, EMI filters, thick and thin film packages, varistors, thermistors, inductors and resistive products. The KED Resale segment consists primarily of ceramic capacitors, frequency control devices, SAW devices, sensor products, RF modules, actuators, acoustic devices and connectors produced by Kyocera, and resold by AVX. The Connectors segment consists primarily of Elco automotive, telecom and memory connectors manufactured by AVX. In addition, we have a corporate administration group consisting of finance and administrative activities and a separate research and development group.
Our customers are multi-national original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, independent electronic component distributors and electronic manufacturing service providers, or EMSs. We market our products through our own direct sales force and independent manufacturers' representatives, based upon market characteristics and demands. We coordinate our sales, marketing and manufacturing organizations by strategic customer account and globally by region.
We sell our products to customers in a broad array of industries, such as telecommunications, information technology hardware, automotive electronics, medical devices and instrumentation, industrial instrumentation, defense and aerospace electronic systems and consumer electronics.
Our principal strategic advantages include:
Creating Technology Leadership. We have research and development locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, France and Israel. We have developed numerous new products during fiscal 2009 and won several awards that recognize our technology leadership. These new products add to the broad product line we offer to our customers. Due to our broad product offering, none of our products individually represent a material portion of our revenues. Our scientists are working to develop product solutions to the challenges facing our customers. Our engineers are continually working to enhance our manufacturing processes to improve capability, capacity and yield, while continuing to reduce manufacturing costs.
Providing a Broad Product Line. We believe that the breadth and quality of our product line and our ability to quickly respond to our customers' design and delivery requirements make us the provider of choice for our multi-national customer base. We differentiate ourselves by providing our customers with a substantially complete passive component solution. We market five families of products: ceramic products, tantalum products, advanced products, Kyocera manufactured passive products and connector devices. This broad array allows our customers to streamline their purchasing and supply organization.
Maintaining the Lowest Cost, Highest Quality Manufacturing Organization. We have invested approximately $167 million over the past three fiscal years to upgrade and enhance our worldwide manufacturing capabilities, with respect to the manufacture of ceramic, tantalum and advanced components as well as connector devices. In order to continually reduce the cost of production, our strategy has included the transfer to and expansion of manufacturing operations in countries such as China, El Salvador, Malaysia, Mexico and the Czech Republic.
Globally Coordinating our Marketing and Manufacturing Facilities. We believe that our global presence is an important competitive advantage as it allows us to provide quality products on a timely basis to our multi-national customers. We provide enhanced services and responsiveness to our customers by maintaining significant manufacturing operations in locations where we market the majority of our products. Our 18 manufacturing facilities are located in 10 different countries around the world. As our customers continue to expand their global production capabilities, we are ideally situated to meet their design and supply requirements.
We offer an extensive line of passive components designed to provide our customers with "one-stop shopping" for substantially all of their passive component needs. Passive components do not require power to operate. These components adjust and regulate voltage and current, store energy and filter frequencies. Sales of Passive Components represented approximately 62% of our net sales in fiscal 2009. KDP and KKC Resale represented approximately 26%, and Connectors, including KEC Resale Connectors, represented approximately 12% of our net sales in fiscal 2009. The table below presents revenues for fiscal 2007, 2008 and 2009 by product group. Financial information concerning our Passive Components, KED Resale, Connectors and Research and Development segments is set forth in Note 15 to the consolidated financial statements elsewhere herein.
We manufacture a full line of multi-layered ceramic and solid tantalum capacitors in many different sizes and configurations. Our strategic focus on the growing use of passive components is reflected in our investment of approximately $148.3 million in facilities and equipment used to manufacture passive components during the past three fiscal years. In addition, on September 25, 2007, we expanded our passive components through the acquisition of American Technical Ceramics (“ATC”) for $234.1 million in cash, including acquisition costs. The ATC product line has been integrated into our Advanced Components product group. We believe that sales of passive components will continue to be among the most rapidly growing in the worldwide capacitor market because technological advances have been constantly expanding the number and type of applications for these products.
Tantalum and ceramic capacitors are commonly used in conjunction with integrated circuits and are best suited for applications requiring low to medium capacitance values. Capacitance is the measure of the capacitor's ability to store electric energy. Generally, ceramic capacitors are more cost-effective at lower capacitance values, and tantalum capacitors are more cost-effective at medium capacitance values. The net sales of tantalum and ceramic capacitors accounted for approximately 50% of our passive component net sales in fiscal 2009.
We also offer a line of advanced passive component products to fill the special needs of our customers. Our family of passive components also includes film capacitors, high energy/voltage power capacitors and varistors. Our advanced products engineers work with some customers' in-house technical staffs to design, produce, and manufacture customized products to meet the specifications of particular applications. The manufacture of custom products permits us, through our research and development activities, to make technological advances, provide customers with design solutions to fit their needs, gain a marketing inroad with the customer with respect to our complete product line, and, in some cases, develop products that can be sold to additional customers in the future. Sales of advanced products accounted for approximately 50% of passive component net sales in fiscal 2009.
We have a non-exclusive license to distribute and sell certain Kyocera manufactured electronic component and connector products to certain customers and in certain territories outside of Japan. Our distribution and sale of certain Kyocera products broadens our range of products and further facilitates our ability to offer "one-stop shopping" for our customers' electronic components needs. The Kyocera KDP and KKC electronic components we sell include ceramic capacitors, RF modules, frequency control devices, SAW devices, sensor products, actuators, and acoustic devices. Resale product sales also include connectors manufactured by Kyocera.
We manufacture and sell high-quality electronic connectors and inter-connect systems for use in the telecommunications, information technology hardware, automotive electronics, medical device, defense and aerospace industries. Our product lines include a variety of industry-standard connectors as well as products designed specifically for our customers' unique applications. We produce fine pitch connectors used in portable devices such as smart phones, other cell phones, notebook computers, GPS, and other hand held devices. In addition, we offer specialty connectors designed to address customer specific applications across a wide range of products and end markets. An expanding portion of the electronics market for AVX connectors over the past three years is the automotive market with applications throughout a vehicle including engine control, transmission control, audio, brakes, and the quickly evolving stability and safety control system. We have invested approximately $13.8 million in facilities and equipment over the past three years as we continue to focus on new product development and enhance our production capabilities for our Connector business. Approximately 46% of combined manufactured and resale connector net sales in fiscal 2009 consisted of connectors manufactured by Kyocera.
Marketing, Sales and Distribution
We place a high priority on solving customers' electronic component design challenges and responding to their needs. To better serve our customers we frequently designate teams consisting of marketing, research and development and manufacturing personnel to work with customers to design and manufacture products to suit their specific requirements. Costs related to these activities are expensed as incurred.
Approximately 31%, 24% and 45% of our net sales for fiscal 2009 were generated at our locations in the Americas, Europe and Asia, respectively. Financial information for these geographic regions is set forth in Note 15 to our consolidated financial statements elsewhere herein.
Our products are marketed worldwide by our own dedicated direct sales personnel that serve our major OEM and EMS customers. We also have a large network of independent electronic component distributors and independent manufacturers' representatives who sell our products throughout the world. We have regional sales and design application personnel in strategic locations to provide technical and sales support for independent manufacturers' representatives and independent electronic component distributors. We believe that this combination of sales channels provides a high level of market penetration and efficient coverage of our customers on a cost-effective basis.
Our products are used in a wide variety of applications by numerous customers. Our products are sold directly to OEMs, EMSs and through manufacturing representatives and independent electronic component distributors. In order to maximize our sales opportunities, our engineering and sales teams maintain close relationships with OEM, EMS and electronic component distributor customers. Our largest customers vary from year to year, and no customer has a long-term commitment to purchase our products. No single customer has accounted for more than 10% of net sales in the fiscal years ended March 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Because we are a supplier to several significant manufacturers in the broad based electronic devices industries and because of the cyclical nature of these industries, the significance of any one customer can vary from one period to the next.
We also have qualified products under various specifications approved and monitored by the United States Defense Electronic Supply Center (DSCC) and European Space Agency (ESA), and approved under certain foreign military specifications.
Typically, independent electronic component distributors handle a wide variety of products and fill orders for many customers. The sales terms under non-exclusive agreements with independent electronic component distributors may vary by distributor, and by geographic region. In the United States, Europe and Asia, such agreements may include stock rotation and ship-from-stock and debit (“ship and debit”) programs. Stock rotation is a program whereby distributors are allowed to return for credit qualified inventory, semi-annually, equal to a certain percentage, primarily limited to 5%, of the previous six months net sales. In the United States, we may utilize a ship and debit program under which pricing adjustments may be granted by us to assist distributors in meeting competitive prices in the marketplace on sales to their end customers. Ship and debit programs require a request from the distributor for a pricing adjustment for a specific part for a sale to the distributor’s end customer from the distributor’s stock. In addition, certain agreements with distributors may include special incentive discounts based on amount of product ordered or shipped. Our agreements with independent electronic component distributors generally also require that we repurchase qualified inventory from the distributor in the event that we terminate the distributor agreement or discontinue a product offering.
We had a backlog of orders of approximately $238 million at March 31, 2007, $252 million at March 31, 2008 and $159 million at March 31, 2009. Firm orders, primarily with delivery dates within six months of order placement, are included in backlog. Many of our customers encounter uncertain and changing demand for their products. Customer provided forecasts of product usage are not included in backlog. If demand falls below customers’ forecasts, or if customers do not effectively control their inventory, they may cancel or reschedule their shipments that are included in our backlog, in many instances without any penalty. Backlog fluctuates from year to year due, in part, to changes in customer inventory levels, changes to consignment inventory arrangements, order patterns and product delivery lead times in the industry. Accordingly, the backlog outstanding at any time is not necessarily indicative of the level of business to be expected in any ensuing period since many orders are placed and delivered within the same period. In addition, the increased use of vendor managed inventory and similar consignment type arrangements tend to limit the significance of backlog as orders from these arrangements are not typically reflected in backlog.
Research, Development and Engineering
Our emphasis on research and development is evidenced by the fact that most of our manufactured products and manufacturing processes have been designed and developed by our own engineers and scientists. A 60,000 square-foot facility in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is dedicated to research and development and provides centralized coordination of our global research and development efforts. We also maintain research and development staffs at other facilities located in the United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Israel and France.
Our research and development effort and also operational level engineering effort place a priority on the design and development of innovative products and manufacturing processes and engineering advances in existing product lines and manufacturing operations. Other areas of emphasis include material synthesis and the integration of passive components for applications requiring reduced size and lower manufacturing costs associated with board assembly. Research, development and engineering expenditures were approximately $29 million, $35 million and $31 million during fiscal 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. The level of such spending can fluctuate as new products are transferred to full scale production and process enhancements are implemented.
We own United States patents as well as corresponding patents in various other countries, and also have patent applications pending, although patents are not in the aggregate material to the successful operation of our business.
Although most materials incorporated in our products are available from a number of sources, certain materials (particularly tantalum from Australia and China and palladium from Russia and South Africa) are available only from a relatively limited number of suppliers. We have informed our suppliers of tantalum materials not to use material sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo due to environmental, wildlife and humanitarian concerns, and to our knowledge we have not used any material from that location.
The costs of our products are influenced by a wide variety of raw materials, including tantalum and other metals such as platinum, palladium, silver, nickel, gold and copper used in our manufacturing processes. The cost of these materials is subject to price fluctuation and many have risen significantly during the past few years. In general, increases in the cost of raw materials may be offset by selling price increases, productivity improvement and cost savings programs, but that is not always the case.
We are a major consumer of the world’s annual production of tantalum. Tantalum powder and wire are principal materials used in the manufacture of tantalum capacitor products. These materials are purchased from suppliers in various parts of the world at prices that are subject to periodic adjustment and variations in the market. The tantalum required to manufacture our products has generally been available in sufficient quantity. The limited number of tantalum material suppliers that process tantalum ore into capacitor grade tantalum powder has led to higher prices during periods of increased demand.