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China Continues to Devour LED Tools

Stocks in this article: VECO AIXG CREE LEDS RBCN

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sales of core equipment for the LED sector fell in the first quarter of 2011, the first time that MOCVD tool orders have slipped after seven consecutive quarterly increases. China's devouring of LED tools, though, continued unabated to start 2011, according to a first-quarter survey from IMS Research.

The pace of tool orders in the MOCVD market, and the extent to which the market has become reliant on sales to China, are key trading triggers for the LED sector equipment duopoly of Veeco Instruments (VECO) and Aixtron (AIXG).

Shipments for both Veeco and Aixtron were down quarter over quarter, with MOCVD reactor shipments falling 18%. However, the year-over-year view presents a different picture, with LED equipment orders rising 31%.

China has been the story, and Veeco has been gaining a bigger piece of the China story as the LED markets of Korea and Taiwan move more slowly on capital spending increases.

Shipments of MOCVD tools to China (GaN MOCVD tools, specifically, which represent 97% of the MOCVD market) rose from 64% to 74% in the first quarter, according to IMS Research survey data.

For Veeco, China was 90% of its first quarter shipments, while China accounted for 63% of Aixtron shipments, according to IMS Research. Veeco led in China and Europe while Aixtron led in Korea, Taiwan and the U.S.

In the total MOCVD tool market share race, IMS Research data shows that Veeco gained a point of market share, up from 43% to 44% when measuring total MOCVD shipments, with Aixtron losing a point of share from 53% to 52%.

One of the more important data points in the IMS Research survey is projections for the Chinese market. There has been endless speculation about when the Chinese government stops offering subsidies to MOCVD tool purchasers, and some provinces have already pulled back on subsidies, according to published reports, among them a report from Citigroup analyst Tim Arcuri.

Yet IMS Research shows no slowdown in the Chinese market. "Looking forward, we are not seeing installations being pushed out in China. "We are not seeing installations being pushed out in China. We expected to see some delays, but we have only reduced our 2011 forecast by 8 reactors from 1097 to 1089," IMS Research concluded. The total of 1089 reactors implied significant growth for the MOCVD market from the second quarter through fourth quarter of 2011.

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