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LED Stock Losers: The Shorts Own Veeco

Stocks in this article: VECO AIXG CREE

Yet on Thursday, Cree was actually gaining ground in trading after its recent wallop, up more than 1%, while Aixtron was only down by a similar margin in the afternoon.

The reason for the continuing short parade in Veeco on Thursday may be due to a specific read-through from the Digitimes report that does not apply directly to Aixtron or Cree.

Citing anonymous sources, Digitimes reports that current orders for the MOCVD equipment sold by Veeco and used in LED chip production has reached 1,400-1,600 sets, leading to concerns about overheating from officials at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). For comparison purposes, in the last quarter the total installed base of such equipment in the LED sector was 720 sets, according to data provided by analyst Mark Miller of Noble Financial Group. Noble Financial's Miller said that of the roughly 400 LED machine sold by Veeco, probably between 100 and 150 were Chinese sales.

Digitimes writes that "Officials from MIIT revealed that the government is indeed concerned that aggressive investments could overheat the LED industry, and is currently designing its twelfth five-year plan for LED industry development. It is scheduled to announce up to ten new standards and policies in 2010."

Government subsidies in China have helped to spur the sale of the equipment made by Veeco, and Veeco has had a much stronger presence in China than Aixtron. Therefore, the read-through from the anonymously sourced report is that the Chinese government could rein in its current level of subsidies for the purchase of LED equipment, leading to slowing sales in China for Veeco. A lower level of subsidies from China for LED equipment buys could also put pressure on Veeco's pricing.

Currently, the Chinese government subsidizes $1 million to $1.5 million of each MOCVD machine installation, a policy that has helped Veeco to become a leader in China.

The Noble Financial analyst was frustrated by the latest short raining on the LED parade, saying that with the lack of long-only interest to fend off the shorts, the bear action in Veeco has become the classic story about short trading destroying value in a growth company, rather than a market balancing mechanism. The Noble Financial analyst argues that the shorts can have their day now, but the longer-term trends don't support the bear case on Veeco. By 2013, Miller projects a global market of roughly 160 billion LEDs, and that requires an equipment base of 3,750 Veeco-like machines.

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