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2007-02-26
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Editorial: Feb '07 CS/SSL Stock Portfolio Update
 
... It's been awhile since Jo Ann has reported on her model portfolio of compound semi (CS) and solid state lighting (SSL) industry stocks, most of which are traded over the USA's Nasdaq exchange. The delay is because the majority of stocks have continued to underperform, certainly compared to last...
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Commentary...
Feb '07 CS/SSL Stock Portfolio Update

 
... It's been awhile since Jo Ann has reported on her model portfolio of compound semi (CS) and solid state lighting (SSL) industry stocks, most of which are traded over the USA's Nasdaq exchange. The delay is because the majority of stocks have continued to underperform, certainly compared to last...

View the full story at the bottom of the current news page, or if this is a back issue, go here...

U.S. ITC Agrees With ALJ; Rules That Epistar's MB Products Violate Philips Lumileds' '718 Patent
LIGHTimes Staff

February 26, 2007...The United States International Trade Commission has chosen to adopt the Administrative Law Judge’s initial determination that that Epistar’s MB I and MB II products infringe Philips Lumileds U. S. Patent No. 5,008718 (the ‘718 patent). (Ref: Coverage). The US ITC also agrees with the ALJ Sydney Harris’s initial determination that Philips Lumileds’ United States Patent No. 5,008,718 (“718 Patent”); Patent No. 5,376,580; and Patent No. 5,502,316 are valid and enforceable. The ITC agreed with the ALJ that Epistar’s Metal Bond products infringe on the ‘718 patent. The ITC also agreed with the ALJ that Philips Lumileds (Lumileds) did not license any of its technology to be used in Epistar’s products. The ITC will review whether the ALJ’s interpretation of the patents and whether Epistar’s OMA I, OMA II, GB I and GB II LEDs also infringe certain claims of the 718 patent. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Aonex and Kyma Collaborate on GaN
CompoundSemi News Staff

February 26, 2007...Aonex Technologies Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of Arrowhead Research Corporation, has entered into a collaborative agreement with Kyma Technologies Inc., to develop and reduce the cost of gallium nitride (GaN)-based devices such as blue laser diodes and blue LEDs. Aonex Technologies, Inc., of Pasadena, California USA, is a developer of proprietary substrates that the company says reduce the production cost of devices such as blue laser diodes, LEDs and high-efficiency solar cells. Kyma Technologies, a spin out of North Carolina State Univeristy, develops GaN substrates for high performance nitride semiconductor applications. Kyma's native GaN substrates have the potential to significantly enhance the performance and reliability of a variety of applications including: optoelectronic systems, communications, electronic warfare, and radar.

Under the terms of the agreement, Aonex will provide Kyma with access to its proprietary wafer technology, called "A-Sapph," which are substrates comprised of an ultra-thin layer of single crystal sapphire (< 500 nm) that is bonded to a polycrystalline aluminum nitride support substrate. Aonex said that Kyma will work to leverage the superior properties of A-Sapph to produce large-area wafers suitable for the manufacture of advanced GaN devices. Aonex explained that large-area wafers could dramatically reduce the cost of GaN devices by enabling an increase in the number of chips per wafer while substantially improving yields. Blue laser diodes enable Blu-ray and HD-DVD players. The field has been completely dominated by Nichia. Recent ramped up volume production of such devices with so few suppliers has been credited with leading to shortages and delays of popular products such as the Sony PlayStation 3. On the blue LED front, blue spectrum LEDs serve as the back lights of cell phones and can also be converted to white LEDs with the addition of a light conversion technology such as a phosphor. Dr. Keith Evans, Kyma’s president and CEO, commented, “We are delighted to work with the Aonex team. The combined attributes of Aonex’s A-Sapph substrate technology and Kyma’s proprietary high growth rate, low defect density GaN crystal growth technology have great potential to reduce the costs of a broad range of high performance nitride semiconductor devices.” Aonex News Release

Australia to Ban Incandescent Bulbs
SSLDesign News Staff

February 23, 2007...On Tuesday the Australian government announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs, and replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs. Just a couple of weeks previous, California legislators proposed similar measures. However, neither plan made mention of LED lighting. Before the proposed law in California, Fidel Castro banned incandescent bulbs in Cuba; then Hugo Chavez did the same in Venezuela, the Associated Press reported in a recent article.

Compact fluorescent bulbs, unlike LEDs, have toxic materials such as lead, mercury, or cadmium. Such materials require special methods of disposal. The California plan included methods of recycling the compact fluorescent lamps including their hazardous materials. In a similar proposal, a New Jersey lawmaker, called for his state to ban incandescent bulbs within three years.

LED Lighting Fixtures, president and CEO told news outlet, Red Herring in a recent article, that the company had already received several inquiries about its technology. Also, in a recent statement, environmental action group, Greenpeace urged India to follow suit in banning incandescent bulbs.

Michigan County Seeks Federal Funds for Traffic Signal Replacement
LIGHTimes Staff

February 23, 2007...Not every county or city in the United States has switched to LED-based traffic signals yet. Ottawa County, near Grand Rapids, Michigan USA, is applying for federal funding to replace traffic signal lights with LED versions, according to the Grand Rapids Press. The county hopes to replace the traffic signals at 48 intersections during the next year. The newspaper reported that switching to LED traffic signals could save an estimated $50,000 annually in energy costs with bulbs replaced about every five years instead of annually, Engineering Director Brett Laughlin told the newspaper. The article indicated that if approved, the grants could pay for 80 percent of the estimated $235,000 project cost. Traffic signals using LEDs consume 80 to 90 percent less energy at 10 to 22 watts of power, compared to 135 watts for incandescent or halogen bulbs.

Austriamicrosystems Debuts LED Driver with Built in Diagnostic Functions
LIGHTimes Staff

February 23, 2007...Austriamicrosystems of Unterpremstaetten, Austria, has introduced a 16 channel LED driver with advanced error diagnostics for open and shorted LEDs. AS1110 doubles the output channels of its predecessor, the AS1109. No additional PCB tracks are needed because the AS1110 uses serial data input/output lines for the error information readback.

The AS1110 offers sixteen regulated ports that provide constant current for driving LEDs within a wide range of forward voltage variations. The AS1110 output ports are guaranteed to endure a maximum voltage of 15V. Through an external resistor the currents can be adjusted from 0.5 to 100mA which gives the utmost flexibility in controlling LED brightness. According to the company, it offers an excellent accuracy of +/-3% between channels, and it improves picture quality of LED displays by eliminating the variations between LEDs and LED modules.

Another highlight of the AS1110 is the easy and intuitive, built-in LED error detection. can be invoked during normal operation without switching into a separate detection mode. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Lighting Science Group Teams with Callenberg Engineering
LIGHTimes Staff

February 21, 2007...Lighting Science Group (LSG) Corporation of Dallas, Texas USA, and Callenburg Engineering, a supplier of electrical, automation and HVAC systems to the marine and offshore markets, have partnered to jointly develop LED light bulbs and fixtures for marine applications. The companies are jointly developing LED luminaires, bollard fixtures, down light fixtures, and LED replacement lamps for the marine industry. LSG said Callenberg will market and distribute this new technology to the marine industry under the Lighting Science brand. The new products will be introduced and displayed at the upcoming 2007 Seatrade Cruising Convention in Miami, Florida. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

STMicroelectronics Introduces LED Driver with Auto-Shut-Down Mode
LIGHTimes Staff

February 23, 2007...STMicroelectronics of Geneva, Switzerland, introduced an LED driver which includes an automatic shutdown mode as a power-saving feature. According to ST, the latest member of its Power Logic family, the STP16CPS05, allows manufacturers to meet the high power-efficiency requirements of industrial lighting, signage and transportation applications. The company says that the new driver allows individual ICs to go into shutdown mode when no active inputs are detected. The company points out that this provides an evolutionary advantage over the previous STP16Cx596 Power Logic series. For this reason, the STP16CPS05 can save power without external intervention. The STP16CPS05 Power Logic series features a clock and data re- synchronization function, which is useful when the devices are connected in cascade. The IC is available in four package types, of which one, the thermally efficient exposed-pad TSSOP, comes with outstanding heat dissipation features. It operates over a temperature range of -40 degrees Celsius to +125 degrees Celsius, and it can work with a power supply from 3.3V up to 5V; its output current is programmable from 5mA to 80mA to suit applications requiring mid-current range and high-precision LED control. Company News Release

Hymite Develops Silicon-Based Packaging Solution for HB-LEDs
LIGHTimes Staff

February 20, 2007...Hymite technology reports accomplishing what others have tried but failed to do. They have been able to incorporate silicon-based packaging for high brightness LEDs. The use of silicon packaging, if effective, could bring tremendous material cost and processing savings. Hymite A/S, a Danish-German technology company and supplier of advanced packaging products for electronic components announced the introduction of a silicon-based packaging solution for high-brightness LEDs, HyLED. The company reports that a major European customer which produces digital light sources has begun using HyLED packaging for its light source. Hymite says that through the use of the HyLED technology, the company was able to achieve package miniaturization and improved efficiency.

The HyLED technology uses silicon wafers and batch micromaching/metallization processes to deliver package size reductions up to 4x. According to the company, the micromachined LED cavity acts as a reflector, thermoconductor, and reservoir for silicon. Silicon wafers perform well thermally and under stress. They may not have the performance of sapphire and gallium nitride, but they might provide a very cost effective solution for packaging. Hymite says the packaging solution would be ideal for general lighting, mobile electronics, automotive lighting, and panel backlighting. Company News Release

Showa Denko Develops GaN Growth Technique for Improved Crystal Quality
CompoundSemi News Staff

February 20, 2007...Showa Denko K. K. (SDK) of Tokyo, Japan, reported developing a new process for producing high-quality gallium nitride crystals on sapphire substrates for use in blue and white LEDs. SDK explains that its new process is a combination of the conventional metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) process and SDK’s proprietary plasma assisted physical deposition (PPD) process for growing nitride-based semiconductor crystals. For this reason, the new process is appropriately named the “Hybrid PPD” process. According to SDK, the process technology enables the production of four-inch epitaxial wafers with higher quality than conventional MOCVD (as measured by the X-ray rocking curve method).

SDK has already developed blue LEDs which the company says have the highest level of brightness on the market. SDK has decided to build a production facility in Chiba, Japan to boost its blue LED production from its current level of 30 million units per month to 100 million units per month by the end of the year. Also by the end of the year, the company says it will begin shipping the blue LEDs. Company News Release

TIR's Argument of Color Kinetics' Inequitable Conduct Rejected by Court
LIGHTimes Staff

February 20, 2007...TIR Systems Ltd. of Vancouver, Brittish Columbia Canada, reported that the United States Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to meet the high burden of proof required to pursue TIR’s complaint of alleged inequitable conduct by Color Kinetics. TIRs complaint which partially counter’s Color Kinetic’s Infringement claims, alleges that Color Kinetics engaged in inequitable conduct during prosecution of its patents.

The case began when Color Kinetics alleged that TIR infringed on certain of its U.S. patents since 2003. TIR countered this complaint claiming that Color Kinetics engaged in inequitable conduct while pursuing it patent infringement claim against the company. TIR pointed out that the court ruling does not affect its invalidity and non-infringement arguments in the case. TIR contends that the decision has minimal impact on its current business, and it will continue to support its growing consortium of OEM partners developing and launching products based on Lexel, as well as manufacturing, selling and supporting its established lighting products. LIGHTimes SecondPage members login for more. Guests can view membership details.

Fujimi to Produce 3- and 4-Inch Sapphire Wafers for LEDs

February 16, 2007...Fujimi Inc. of Nagoya, Japan, a manufacturer of wafer polishing materials has started producing sapphire wafers for LEDs, according to a Nikkei Net article. The company plans to produce 3-inch and 4-inch sapphire wafers in a market that it says is dominated by 2-inch wafers. The article indicated that the company will leverage its expertise in polishing and measurement technology to produce the sapphire wafers.

Nikkei Net reported that in January 2006, Fujimi acquired an 84 percent stake in Interoptec Co., a company with technologies for fabricating sapphire wafers. Then the company reportedly invested between 500 and 600 million yen in a factory in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. The factory began operation in July 2006. The article noted that over the next fiscal year, the company plans on spending an additional 400 million yen to expand the factory. The goal of the factory is reportedly to reach 1 billion yen in sales of sapphire wafers for LEDs during the next fiscal year and to double sales over the next several years.

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The McDonald Report
Commentary & Perspective...

Feb '07 CS/SSL Stock Portfolio Update
Jo Ann McDonald

February 14, 2007...It's been awhile since Jo Ann has reported on her model portfolio of compound semi (CS) and solid state lighting (SSL) industry stocks, most of which are traded over the USA's Nasdaq exchange. The delay is because the majority of stocks have continued to underperform, certainly compared to last year at this time, and disappointing news is never that enjoyable for us to report. But there are positive signs and some good performers, particularly Anadigics and Color Kinetics, as you'll see in this issue of The McDonald Report.

I began this experiment almost two years ago, in the Spring of 2005, when stock prices of virtually all the USA's CS and SSL publicly held companies had reached what I felt at the time of purchase was their all-time low. I bought 100 shares of each stock to simplify the math, and because that was all I could afford to gamble, especially on just an "experiment." I also pledged to hold the stocks long-term... at least as long as I reported on them. In order of their purchases, beginning in April 2005, the initial portfolio included: Emcore (EMKR), Cree (CREE), TriQuint (TQNT), Color Kinetics (CLRK), Anadigics (ANAD), JDS Uniphase (JDSU), Spire (SPIR), RF Micro Devices (RFMD), Kopin (KOPN), WJ Communications (WJCI), Vitesse (VTSS). Later, I added Aixtron (AIXG) and AXT, all of which are traded over the Nasdaq exchange. Most recently, I added TIR Systems, which trades on the Toronto exchange under the symbol, TIRSF. (I still intend to add IQE in the UK, but my broker still hasn't figured out how to buy 100 shares of London stocks). Total investment added up to just under $7000.

So it's been almost two full years holding most of these stocks. As of February of 2006, I truly thought we were on the rebound towards at least their original IPO prices. Doing the math, the value of the portfolio had increased an impressive 43 percent. By mid-March, 2006, it continued the rise to 60 percent, and . As reported at the time, a 60 percent "unrealized gain" (as they say in stock circles) was a metric that any USA stock market follower would have said was "huge and exciting news." In real money terms, my initial investment had grown to just over about $10,000. If I had made the level of investment most shareholders do, a zero or two would have been added all around and, hey, I'd have probably cashed in. But this is a model. An experiment. Something to write about periodically. And a barometer of what's happening throughout the CS/SSL industries. As it turns out, the portfolio's "unrealized gain" as of this month, has fallen to just over $2,000. But hey, we're still up, with only a few stocks in the minus zone.

Here's how they stack up, as of the close of the market February 13th, the day before Valentine's Day. The sweethearts in the portfolio are Anadigics (ANAD) at +$993 and Color Kinetics (CLRK) at +$809. The poorest performer turns out to be Cree weighing in at -$775, which is really sad and really misleading given that Cree has rolled out nothing but excellent new technology and customer design wins over recent months. Go figure! In alphabetical order, here's how the 14 stocks in the portfolio performed: AIXG +$135, ANAD +$993, AXT +$358, CLRK +$809, CREE -$775, EMKR +$62, JDSU +$29, KOPN -$51, RFMD +$255, SPIR +$411, TIRSF +$6, TQNT +$137, VTSS -$153, WJCI -$53. That should add up to +$2163. Take that gain and divide it by the cost and we still get an approximate 30 percent increase in value. Not bad, given the current state of the economy (and the miserly interst rate one gets from a savings account or CDs in a bank).

Why didn't the portfolio, overall, continue on last last year's roll? I've come to understand that it has very little to do with the performance of the individual companies. The big picture right now portrays two totally opposing schools of thought. One school, call them the pessimists, says that the USA's economy is recession-bound due to what they're calling "the housing bust" and that the slow down in housing will spread negative aspects to other sectors. The other school, call them the optimists, says that despite housing being down, the rest of economy is so strong that it will carry housing and that we may actually be facing inflation. Diametrically opposed schools. Fiscally conservative brokers are advising clients to play it safe and sit on their cash. They're waiting out the continued uncertainty because either extreme could actually be right. Only the gamblers are playing.

I think that's what's happening to a great deal of America's wealth. Investors are keeping their money safe by sitting on their cash. Not rolling of the dice. And that extends over to the technology sector big time. Investing in technology stocks is always considered risky business. (That's why there aren't added zeros to my CS/SSL portfolio.) The Nasdaq exchange itself is considered a high risk game. But when you look at the individual companies, like those represented in the portfolio--and beyond, to the numbers of stocks I wasn't able to purchase simply because they were priced out of my league, the vast majority of the companies are, in fact, strong. And we know their technology is strong because we understand leading-edge technology better than anybody. Anadigics and Color Kinetics were obviously the portfolio standouts, for good reasons.

Anadigics has been exceptionally diligent by steadily rebuilding its telecom business after the bust that hit everyone in the CS sector so terribly hard. As CEO Bami Bastami recently pointed out, "Anadigics scored its seventh consecutive quarter of net sales growth and posted pro forma profitability ahead of expectations. It is positioning itself to capitalize on all the top voice, data and video segments of the wireless and broadband communications markets, offering a rich breadth and depth of 3G/3.5G products that use the W-CDMA, the HSDPA, HSUPA & EDGE standards, 4G products for WiMAX and WiBRO systems, WiFi products that use the 802.11 a/b/g and 802.11 n (draft-n, MIMO) standards, CATV set-top box and infrastructure, and FTTP products."

Color Kinetics continues to stay on its SSL roll by leading, not following. As CEO Bill Sims put it most recently, "Today there is heightened awareness of the potential for energy-efficient lighting to help conserve resources and spare the environment. We believe such increased attention to the matter, along with continued research, development, and government funding, will help set the stage for an eventual transition to LED technology as the right long-term solution. As the market opportunities for LED lighting continue to grow, Color Kinetics is preparing in parallel to lead the transformation forward through important new technologies, systems, and strategic partnerships."

Onward, thu the fog...

If you have questions about the solid state lighting and compound semiconductor industries or have news or views to share, I'm Jo Ann McDonald, Editor of LIGHTimes and CompoundSemi News. Feel free to contact me directly, anytime.
My direct tel at the ranch is +1-325-463-5345

From time to time Jo Ann may comment on companies in which she holds a modest investment - be sure to read her disclosure at some point in time...

 

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