KLA-Tencor is hard-core when it comes to hunting down chip flaws. One of the world's largest makers of process control equipment for semiconductors and other high tech industries, the company offers yield management systems that monitor and analyze materials during the entire fabrication process, inspecting reticles (which make circuit patterns) and measuring microscopic layers. KLA-Tencor has long dominated the market for equipment that inspects semiconductor photomasks and reticles. The company gets about 70% of sales from customers in Asia; its two largest, leading global semiconductor manufacturers Samsung Electronics and TSMC, account for more than 10% of sales each.
KLA-Tencor is the undisputed leader in its niche; it tries to position itself as a one-stop shop for its customers' yield management needs, particularly by complementing its technology offerings with consulting services and software, as well as refurbished equipment. The company's software includes products for factory-wide yield management and for test floor automation and control. Besides its core focus on semiconductor customers, KLA-Tencor products are also used in manufacturing for other related nanoelectronics, LEDs, data storage, solar cell applications, and general materials research.
KLA-Tencor outsources its manufacturing, but operates facilities of its own for assembly, design, and testing. Those activities take place at its facilities in Belgium, California, China, Germany, Israel, and Singapore.
As chip makers generally stopped buying capital equipment in the worldwide financial meltdown, KLA-Tencor saw its revenues plummet 40% in 2009 and the company suffered its first net loss since the 1997 merger between KLA and Tencor. The company laid off about 25% of its employees, scheduled additional forced time off, reduced employee stock purchase plan benefits, and consolidated some of its properties.
The improving economy combined with the burgeoning proliferation of mobile devices restored demand and brought sales to an all-time high in fiscal 2011, besting 2010 sales by nearly 75%. Revenue for fiscal 2012 (ended June) remained flat at $3.2 billion. Net income dropped a more noticeable 4%, but still came in at more than $755 million, KLA-Tencor's second-best profit of the past ten years (behind only 2011) by nearly $230 million.
The company continues to invest in R&D, more than 10% of revenues, to develop process control and yield management equipment for sub-65nm processing. In fact, KLA-Tencor employs more people in R&D than it does in manufacturing.
KLA-Tencor uses selective acquisitions to keep up with advances in chip fabrication. After a string of purchases in 2008, the company took a break until 2010 when it acquired Santa Cruz, California-based Ambios Technology, which provided surface roughness measurement products and enhanced KLA-Tencor's general purpose and lab application capabilities.
Capital Research Global Investors owns about 10% of KLA-Tencor. – less