If Semtech's products seem highly technical, it's because they are. Not to be confused with semiconductor research consortium SEMATECH, Semtech makes analog and mixed-signal semiconductors used by manufacturers of computer, communications, consumer, and industrial electronics. The company's chips are used for power management, circuit protection, transmission, and other functions in a variety of devices, including cellular phones and base stations, notebook and desktop PCs, network transmission equipment, and automated test equipment. It counts Samsung Electronics (nearly 15% of sales), Frontek Technology (10%), and Huawei among its customers. Semtech generates more than 60% of its sales in Asia/Pacific.
Semtech's products fall into four product lines: voltage and electrostatic discharge protection, high-speed network communications, power management and rectifiers (AC/DC conversion), and wireless and sensing. Its products are used in settings such as automated meter reading, cellular base stations, aerospace and defense, medical, satellite communications, TVs, gaming systems, and many other telecommunications and industrial environments.
With its fabless model, the company doesn't make its own chips. Semtech relies on third-party manufacturers in China (a foundry there producing about 60%, by cost, of the company's silicon requirements) and the US, with assembly and test activities going through subcontractors in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The semiconductor industry is highly cyclical, partly due to its dependence on the consumer electronics industry. Most of Semtech's sales go into big end-use markets: cell phones, desktop computers, and notebook computers. The company has suffered less than others, though, with only a 3% dip in revenues in fiscal 2010 after the global recession hit, and still edging out a profit. That was followed by a nearly 60% rebounding of sales in fiscal 2011, and net income reaching a 10-year high.
Revenue growth for fiscal 2012 (closed at the end of January) benefitted from stronger communications and consumer end markets, though the still-tentative global economic recovery kept component product orders on the decline. Its communications segment grew to the company's largest (40% of sales) as customers clamored for more speed with 40Gbps (Gigabit per second) and 100Gbps deployments.
Semtech seeks to identify and target fast-growing end-markets that need high-performance, cutting edge equipment. Such markets include high-end consumer equipment, communications infrastructure, and select broad-based industrial destinations. Within those markets, it seeks to capitalize on its analog design expertise, focusing on the increasing demand in key areas: higher speeds for data, voice, and video delivery; more-portable, integrated, and feature-capable devices; and greater energy management capabilities in residential and commercial settings. Geographically, it looks to grow and diversify its client pool by concentrating on Asia and Europe.
In 2012 Semtech acquired France-based Cycleo, a developer of intellectual property (IP) for long-range wireless semiconductors, for $5 million, with an additional $16 million possible based on performance targets. Cycleo's wireless technology, used primarily in smart metering and other automation and control applications, expanded Semtech's extended-range radio-frequency (RF) products.
Also that year Semtech moved to broaden its high-speed communications infrastructure portfolio when it paid CDN$500 million (about $500 million) for Gennum, a provider of high speed analog and mixed-signal semiconductors used in broadcasting, networking, storage, telecom, and consumer connectivity. – less