ST forecasts MEMS resurgence

July 29, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
MEMS sales at STMicroelectronics NV are set to return strongly in the second half of 2016, the company told financial analysts in a conference call on July 27 2016.

As Carlo Bozotti, CEO of ST, discussed the company's 2Q16 results, he said that the company was seeing an increasing backlog of MEMS products across the board as well as several new products that had achieved design wins. He said business looked good for multiple MEMS product types ranging from pressure sensors to microphones, including accelerometers and particularly a new family of low power gyroscopes.

"We have a very, very strong backlog on MEMS in Q3. And I would like to say that it's very much across the board. It's across the board with several new products for various regions, of course, with a strong focus in Asia, in China, but also in America," Bozotti said.

Bozotti made the point that compared with a previous wave of MEMS sales, which had been focused on smartphone vendors, the new business is more diverse in terms of customers.

The analog and MEMS business has been a source of sales and stability for ST in recent years as it spent several years trying to disentangle itself from a failed attempt to serve the mobile phone sector with digital chips. Although ST was forced to exit the digital sector it enjoyed analog and MEMS sensor sales and had inertial MEMS design wins in the Apple iPhone. These helped propel ST to become market leader in MEMS.

However, ST lost some of that business in 2014 (see InvenSense, Bosch, NXP winners in iPhone 6) and its number one position as MEMS component vendor to Bosch. Successes elsewhere were expected to help replace that business – at higher margins – but ST was hit by problems with its microphone sales in 2015 (see Microphone glitch hit ST's analog, MEMS sales in 2015) and troubles carried on into 2016 (see Analog, MEMS drag on ST results).

In the most recent quarter – 2Q16 – ST was able to report a sequential rise in sales for its Analog and MEMS business group (AMG) and Bozotti clearly feels AMG has turned a corner. This is despite the fact that AMG sales in 2Q16 of $376 million were down 15 percent on the $445 million sold in 2Q15.