CyberOptics cuts 10% of its workforce

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2012 - 7:47 PM

The Golden Valley maker of inspection equipment is being hurt by a slowdown in chip sales.

Battered by a declining computer chip industry and the global economic slowdown, CyberOptics Corp. on Friday reported a continuing sales decline for its optical sensors and a 10 percent reduction of its workforce.

CyberOptics provides optical sensors that are used to inspect the assembly of tiny electronic parts in products such as circuit boards, computer memory chips and solar cells.

On Friday, the Golden Valley company cut 20 jobs worldwide, and now employs 180 people. That followed its announcement in October that it had lost $447,000, or 6 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from earnings of $1.6 million, or 22 cents a share, a year ago. Sales dropped 32 percent to $11.6 million.

On Friday, CyberOptics projected more of the same for the fourth quarter.

"The downturn in the global electronics market, which affected our operating results through the first nine months of 2012, has deepened considerably in the fourth quarter," said CEO Kathleen Iverson. "All electronics manufacturers now appear to be deferring capital equipment orders and likely will continue doing so until global economic uncertainties are resolved and consumer confidence strengthens."

The company expects that fourth-quarter revenue will be between $5.5 million and $6 million, compared with $13.8 million a year ago. A net loss is expected in the fourth quarter, fueled in part by severance costs from the layoffs that will total about $550,000.

Some industry analysts agree. California-based research firm IHS iSuppli said earlier this month that the global computer chip sales are likely to drop 2.3 percent this year, to $303 billion. While the global computer chip market is notoriously cyclical, this year would mark the first annual decline for the industry since 2009.

The only segment of the computer chip market expected to grow this year is chips for wireless mobile devices such as smartphones, IHS iSuppli said. The other segments -- data processing, consumer electronics, industrial, wired communications and automotive -- are expected to shrink.

"CyberOptics has weathered many cyclical downturns before," Iverson said. "While we regret the workforce reduction announced today, we believe this action will enable us to operate more efficiently and effectively during this period of economic weakness."

CyberOptics' financial underpinnings remain strong, with $31.2 million in cash and marketable securities on hand, Iverson said.

"Our sizable cash position is allowing us to maintain our strong commitment to the development of important next-generation products that, we believe, will position us to capture additional share as the electronic market rebounds," the firm said in a government filing.

CyberOptics shares fell 13 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close Friday at $7.32.

Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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