Scoring in a difficult game

second quarter results

David A. Belforte

It's not an easy task growing sales revenues year after year. I know it's simplistic, but you can't call it growth until you have surpassed the previous reporting period numbers. And that is why some companies sometime overemphasize order booking numbers, especially in less than auspicious revenue reports.

The first of August brought published (therefore official) quarterly revenue numbers for the leading suppliers of industrial laser goods and services. We have been anticipating these reports because times have been difficult in the world's manufacturing sectors and the usually reliable sales from China that had been driving growth for many companies did not produce in the second quarter.

Each year at this time, we look forward to the statement on annual revenues from the industry's largest supplier, the TRUMPF group, a private company that reports its previous fiscal year (2012/2013 ended in June) numbers in a brief press release. Details of the company's fiscal year performance will not become available until mid-October.

TRUMPF generated sales of €2.35B (about $3.114B) in the 2012/2013 fiscal year, an increase of 1% over the previous year's €2.33B (about $3.048B); this is the highest sales figure for the 90-year-old company. In a difficult selling year, the company added $20M of revenue.

High-flying fiber laser supplier IPG Photonics turned in a spectacular 26% growth in materials processing sales for the quarter ending in June, and for the first six months of this year added 19% to revenues to bring the half year's total to $310M. Management credited strong demand from Asia and the US applications in automotive and general manufacturing.

Rofin-Sinar Technologies experienced a slow first quarter, followed by a second quarter 6% gain in revenues to more than $139M. For the nine months ended June 2013, Rofin gained 5% over the previous period, raising total revenues to more than $412M. Management credited this turnaround to solid sales in China and the best quarter ever for sales in North America and Asia.

And, finally, one of the world's oldest industrial laser companies, Coherent Inc., racked up a 7% revenue increase for the last quarter, which drove nine-month revenues up by 3% to almost $597M. Management expects meaningful growth in the laser annealing business and a growing demand for laser glass cutting as a vehicle for fourth quarter growth.

These four companies were selected for this analysis because together their industrial laser-related revenues represent about 42% of market total. And their laser products are at the cutting edge of current materials processing technology so they can be regarded as benchmarks for the rest of the industry. Thus, in what many including these companies have defined as a "difficult" economy, they have prospered. It's important to remember that as industry leaders they have to match previous numbers before growth takes over and as leaders they have a higher goal to achieve than others in the industry. So, congratulations to these companies: you've matched and or exceeded industry expectations for modest first-half growth, hopefully leading to a pick-up in the second half.

In doing this, these companies also brought us technology innovations and improvement that when commercialized will bring the increased sales that will hopefully contribute to the anticipated market growth in 2014.

And let's not forget the many other companies that make up more than 50% of the market. Most are not as visible as the four mentioned above, but they too are cultivating and serving growing markets.

David A. Belforte

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