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CSR, Symbian results cheer mobile sector

Posted: 11 May 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless? bluetooth? csr? mobile phone? symbian?

First quarter results from two U.K.-based wireless companies indicate that the sector is picking up steam.

Both Bluetooth chip specialist CSR and mobile phone OS company Symbian reported significantly increased sales, and the former is planning to diversify its wireless offerings.

Richard Ord, who was appointed vice president of the Bluetooth business unit at CSR last month, said the company will recruit another 50 workers this year, including many in R&D, sales and applications engineering. That would bring CSR's payroll up to 260.

The number of CSR employees at the end of the first quarter was 210, up from 198 at the end of 2003.

"We need more people to keep the momentum going, to develop new products in the Bluetooth area and to develop new markets and sales channels in other aspects of the wireless business," said Ord. He would not elaborate on specific sectors the company is targeting.

"We aim to bring the same level of tight integration, single-chip solutions and low cost and power consumption to these new market areas as we have achieved with our Bluetooth technology," said Ord.

In its first results since it raised $56 million earlier this year in an IPO, CSR increased revenues to $36.8 million compared with the last quarter of 2003. Profits before tax totaled $7 million compared with $4 million for the last quarter of 2003.

Sales compared with the first quarter of 2003 were up from $10.7 million, or 243 percent.

Revenues were predominantly from sales of chips and development systems, with negligible income from royalties.

While volumes were up, average selling prices for chips decreased by just over 2 percent during the quarter. This was partly offset by product cost reductions, with individual product margins at almost the same level as during the previous quarter.

CSR's improved performance was mainly the result of design wins and shipments to leading mobile phone makers such as Nokia and Sharp.

Ord said CSR won seven of nine mobile phone designs reported during the quarter on the Bluetooth SIG web site, including four from Nokia and handsets from Sharp, BenQ and Pantech. The company also won 14 headset designs, including the Plantronics M2500 and models from Jabra.

The latest BlueCore3 ROM device, targeted at the mobile and smartphone sector, started shipping in March. Other ROM specific versions aimed at multimedia applications, dongles, keyboards, and headsets are due out soon.

Ord said parts targeted at higher data-rate applications are expected to be sampling in the second half of 2004.

Market researchers IMS has revised its estimate for the number of Bluetooth ICs shipped in 2003 from 52 million units to 64 million. It also upgraded its estimates for 2004 shipments to between 140 million and 160 million from the 102 million predicted late last year.

Symbian results

Meanwhile, Symbian announced Thursday, May 6, 2004 that shipments of mobile phones using its operating system more than doubled to 2.4 million units in the first quarter. Symbian also said it signed three more licensees.

The new users of Symbian's OS are Taiwanese group Arima, LG Electronics from South Korea and China's largest IT company, Lenovo, formerly the Legend Group. This brings to 18 the number of Symbian-based handsets on the market from five licensees.

Another 30 handsets are in development from nine licensees compared with 20 at the same period last year.

Symbian turned over about $23 million during the first quarter of 2004, up from $16.4 million for the same period last year.

The majority of the revenues came from royalties, with the average royalty payment standing at $6.60 per unit, up from $6 in the first quarter of 2003. Consulting services contributed $6.8 million, while partnerships and other services generated more than $717,000.

The company also said the proposed sale by joint founder Psion of its 31-percent stake to Nokia, which would bring the Finnish group's majority stake in Symbian to 63.3 percent, has been approved by Austrian and Finnish authorities. It still needs approval by German regulators. The sale is opposed by other shareholders.

Other shareholders, including Sony-Ericsson, Ericsson, Siemens, Samsung and Matsushita, are likely to exercise options to purchase some of the Psion shares in an effort to preserve the independence of the joint venture.

- John Walko

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