LONDON Epitaxial wafer and substrate foundry IQE increased sales by 55.2 percent in the year to 31 December 2006 to £32.4 million ($64 million), and wafer starts by just over 60 percent to 250,000 units, but still made operating losses of £4.2 million ($8.2 million). The company also said it is on track to begin limited pilot production of material for solar cells by the end of this year.
Much of the growth is attributed to two significant acquisitions during the year, Singapore based MBE Technology Pte and Emcore's electronic materials division.
Gross profit was £2.5 million ($4.9million), a £3.3 million ($6.5 million) increase on its last financial year when it made losses of £0.8 million before an exceptional gain of £1.7 million ($3.3 million).
IQE (Cardiff, Wales) said much of the improvement is due to improved efficiencies.
Drew Nelson, IQE's chief executive, said: "Following the acquisitions, wireless communications products now account for over 75 percent of our revenues and the group is now the largest independent wafer supplier to the global wireless market.
"The mobile handset market continues to be the primary consumer of IQE's products with the handset upgrades being the fastest growing part of the sector. These tend to be higher speed, feature-rich, high-end products that use more Gas materials for the added performance and functionality."
Optoelectronic materials accounted for about a fifth of revenues, and IQE says that increasing demand for solar cells provides a great opportunity for these materials over the coming years. IQE is currently developing high efficiency terrestrial solar cell materials, and expects pilot production to begin by the end of 2007.
Silicon-based epitaxial services accounted for approximately 5 percent of revenues during the year. The company says it has established a strong position in strained silicon, which it is further developing as a strained silicon on insulator product (sSOI).
Separately, IQE said it won two major contracts, worth in aggregate over $2.4 million during 2007, to develop materials for use in ultra high speed integrated circuits.
One contract relates to the development of Strontium Titanium Oxide on Silicon epi-wafers (STO/Si), using IQE’s MBE systems, while the other contract is to develop advanced material structures for increased processing speed for future integrated circuits.
Nelson said:"We plan to aggressively pursue the metal-oxide on Silicon market where we offer unique and superior solutions for these advanced state of the art materials systems. Our entry into this market is important as it further diversifies the group’s product portfolio and underscores our position as the global leader in advanced semiconductor wafer production and R&D."
The development work on these projects will take place at IQE's sites in Bethlehem, Pa.