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Electronica: CEO panel basks in upbeat mood

November 10, 2010 // Peter Clarke

Electronica: CEO panel basks in upbeat mood

In the traditional CEO panel on the opening day of the Electronica exhibition here, the participants were unanimous that the semiconductor industry handled the economic crisis of 2008-2009 well, and that the industry is now set fair for return to "normal" growth.

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Nonetheless, the crisis did have a major impact on the chip industry, which now sees Infineon Technologies AG and NXP considerably smaller than they were two years ago as a result of restructuring.

Peter Bauer, CEO of Infineon, described the immediate sales impact as being a "shock-freeze of demand" which just stopped the supply chain in its tracks but did not reflect underlying end-user demand. "That's why the market went away very abruptly and came back very abruptly. But the demand remained. The mobile phone market survived quite well," said Bauer.

Henri Richard, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Freescale Semiconductor Inc., was standing in for his absent CEO, Rich Beyer. Richard said the chip industry had clearly learned one important lesson: "Never waste a good crisis. We went back to basics and made some changes and have emerged stronger."

Carlo Bozotti, CEO of STMicroelectronics, and Rick Clemmer, CEO of NXP Semiconductors BV parried with statistics on how quickly markets had gone away in 2008 and 2009 markets dropping 40 percent in two quarters and the automotive market being 50 percent down on a year before in Q1 2009. Such things are impossible to predict and mean that the semiconductor industry must be flexible and quick to react, they said.

The panelists were quick to congratulate themselves on having responded quickly to the external crisis but Bozotti did point the finger of blame towards the bankers saying that there is now a greater tendancy towards the formation of bubbles in various sectors due to a "lack of good governance in the global financial world."

Although the panelists talked about quick reactions made by chip companies, none made anything but passing reference to the fact that this meant job losses inflicted in 2008 and 2009. The moderator, free-lance journalist Kilian Reichert, was unable to find a question that would expose differences of opinion amongst the panelists or prevent what came close to being an exercise in self-congratulation.
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