Could industrial lasers pull a deja vu in 2014?

Fiber lasers prevent 2013 market washout.

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It has been awhile since I blogged because I was holding back on my comments on industry finances until the quarterly reports from the stockholder companies came in late February.

So here I go with the leading companies in their market sectors: IPG up 14% in the quarter and 15% for the year; Rofin down 15% for the quarter; Coherent up 9% for the quarter; Newport up 10% for the quarter; Jenoptik up 6% for the year; and ESI up 19% for the quarter. These numbers show mixed results indicative of their global markets. All however were positive on CY1Q14 guidance.

These mixed results were the cause of my estimate of 3.6% growth overall for CY13. Fiber laser sales, up 22%, were the main drivers for growth on CY13 revenues. There’s no question: if it wasn’t for record activity in fiber lasers, 2013 would have been a washout year. These lasers now represent more than one-third of all industrial laser sales.

In 2013, fiber lasers held 66% of the market in marking/engraving, 30% of the macro material processing market, and 22% of the micro material processing market. And these percentages are expected to grow at an increased pace in the next three years.

The most compelling factor in the modest growth for CY13 was the market in China, where government control on investments reduced first half capital equipment sales, and then the government diverted to internal development funding. Many suppliers have strong double-digit sales in the China market and thus their CY13 revenues reflected this loss of activity in the world's largest market for industrial lasers.

The China market remains a conundrum as an easing of government restrictions is expected to favor capital investment in domestic laser suppliers as the government tries to emphasis internal development opposed to imported products. Some analysts have projected internal production capacity will be 2.8 times more in 2017.

ILS is projecting 4.6% growth in global revenues in 2014, led by activity in the 3D printing sector.

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