The business of SSL lighting is doing well, if you read the tea leaves behind earnings announcements from three of the leading firms.
In the last week Philips and Cree announced quarterly earnings results, and Osram did a while back. It's steady as she goes for the two old-line lighting companies, with slight to modest growth reported, and something closer to gangbusters for the upstart, Cree.
The announced Philips results represent the entire diversified company worldwide. The lighting business was broken out as follows:
Lighting comparable sales increased by 8%, led by double-digit growth at Lumileds and Automotive. Light Sources & Electronics and Professional Lighting Solutions achieved mid-single-digit growth, while Consumer Luminaires recorded a low-single-digit decline. LED-based sales grew by 48% and now represent 34% of total Lighting sales.
The consumer lighting business was about flat worldwide, the AP reported, and CEO Frans von Houten said the company is shifting to focus more on professional lighting and healthcare. The AP called out von Houten's highlighting of Philips's "lighting as a service" as a more attractive business than selling to consumers. (See: Lighting-as-a-Service.)
The German-headquartered company, which went public last year, seems to be running a bit behind Philips in its move away from traditional lighting technologies to embrace SSL. Lux Review's report on the Osram results mentions that in the previous year, both companies had derived about 25% of their lighting revenues from SSL; the 2013 results have Philips at 34% and Osram at 29%. Osram reported that earnings in 2013 rose 31% compared to the previous year. (See Osram Goes Public.)
Lux Review gives some particulars of the staff reductions, mostly in the US, Canada, and Germany, that have allowed Osram to increase its profitability. (Philips presumably also eliminated some positions, but the CEO did not provide any detail beyond referring to the ongoing success of the "Accelerate" program.) Osram had slimmed down by 10%, towards a corporate goal of 12%, by the end of 2013.
After disappointing Wall Street for the previous two quarters, Cree exceeded analysts' expectations for revenue, net income, and earnings per share in the last calendar quarter of 2013. Net income rose by 54% compared to the year-ago quarter.
Cree said that sales of consumer bulbs doubled in the quarter. The AP points out that that fact doesn't equate to shipments out of Cree's warehouse doubling. The CEO, Chuck Swoboda, didn't give that latter number. But the lamp and luminaire side of the business is probably what drove most of the gains, not the LED side, as LEDs Magazine pointed out: "...even if the company is growing market share in LEDs, it couldn't drive the profit margin and revenue growth apparent in the Q2 report based on a component space where prices are dropping."
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting