Epistar to See Gross Margin Rebound with Rise in Demand for LED Lighting

As demand for LED lighting products is heating up amid the improving global economy, Epistar is expected to see its gross margin rebound this quarter after posting a record loss last year.

Due to oversupply in the LED market, which resulted in a drop in product prices, Epistar’s performance fell short of analysts’ expectation last year, JPMorgan Securities said in a note on Tuesday last week.

Because of a decreased utilization rate and continual price decreases, Epistar last quarter posted a net loss of NT$1.11 billion (US$37.18 million) after booking an impairment loss of nearly NT$500 million by shutting down one facility previously owned by its subsidiary Huga Optotech Inc.

For the whole of last year, the company’s total net loss amounted to NT$2.33 billion, or a loss per share of NT$1.3, the company said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange last week.

Last year’s figures indicated the company’s worst performance since it was listed on the stock market.

In 2011, the company reported a net loss of NT$286.23 million, or NT$0.56 per share, company data showed.

On the sidelines of this year’s Taiwan International Lighting Show on Tuesday last week, Epistar chairman Lee Biing-jye told reporters that the company’s shipments are likely to more than double this year on the back of robust global demand for LED lighting products amid the global economic recovery.

Increasing global demand for LED lighting products might ease the company’s price pressure this year, Lee said, adding that the company’s estimated prices of LED lighting products would fall by between percent 15 and 20 percent this year.

“Contrary to the seasonal trends seen in the prior two years, where Epistar saw its first-quarter sales performance show quarter-on-quarter margin decline, we expect the margin to show a healthy rebound this quarter,” JPMorgan analyst Narci Chang  said in a note.

Epistar’s management expects to turn around Huga’s profitability by next month.

JPMorgan maintained a positive view on general lighting demand this year and said that Epistar’s general lighting profit could become the company’s biggest earnings driver by the second half of the year.

“Demand for LED lighting products is rising steadily driven by price elasticity and increased awareness of rising energy costs,” Chang said.

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