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Another dark cloud hangs over Unaxis

Unaxis reported weak orders and sales figures for the fourth quarter. Unaxis

The Unaxis technology group has issued its fourth profit warning in six months, saying it expects an operating loss for 2004 of SFr370 million ($310.9 million).

In a statement on Tuesday, the company also reported a sharp decline in fourth-quarter orders, as well as a fall in sales for that period.

Unaxis, which manufactures machines used to assemble semiconductors, flat-screen displays and DVD coating equipment, has been hit by increased competition, high production costs and unfavourable exchange rates.

This has led to a number of management changes and wide-ranging restructuring plans.

“Unaxis has a great track record in disappointing investors. Today, the company did not break with this history,” commented analysts at the Julius Bär bank.

Weak performance

Analyst Andreas Riedel at Bank Sarasin warned that the profit warning and the weak fourth-quarter performance might force the company to move quicker with its plans to divest parts of its chip business.

Fourth-quarter orders dropped by more than expected to SFr313 million, compared with SFr642 million in 2003.

Sales between October and December fell to SFr347 million from SFr462 million, resulting in full-year sales of SFr1.850 billion (+15 per cent).

Unaxis said it expected restructuring costs to come in at SFr230 million.

But it commented that it was “convinced” that financial adjustments and the restructuring plans had prepared the ground to put the company back on track.

No update

Unaxis announced the departure of its chief executive and the implementation of a restructuring programme at the end of last November, but has given no update on progress since then.

Chairman Willy Kissling is to step down from the board at the annual shareholders’ meeting on April 26, after announcing last month that he would not seek re-election.

“We are not only disappointed about the figures but also about the fact that the company gave no statement regarding strategy changes or some changes in the higher management,” said Julius Bär.

The company has decided to focus on the profitable business of thin film and vacuum technology, as well as steadying its loss-making display-technology business to allow a future sale or merger.

It also aims to turn parts of its chip-making equipment business into an independent semiconductor equipment supplier.

swissinfo with agencies

Unaxis announced at the end of November that future strategy would focus on profitable business areas, while the semiconductor equipment segment would be restructured.
At the same time, chief executive Heinz Kundert resigned with immediate effect.
Chairman Willy Kissling said he would not seek re-election at the annual shareholders’ meeting on April 26.

Unaxis has issued its fourth profit warning in six months.

Sales and orders for the fourth quarter of 2004 were below expectations.

Full financial results are due out on March 22.

Unaxis employs 6,500 people worldwide.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR