Nikon Corp.’s precision equipment business is expected to post a rough 50% year-on- year gain in operating profit, to little more than 16 billion yen (US$180 million) for the fiscal year ending March 2014.
Nikon is working towards further shortening the production time for chip-steppers, having already cut it to six months this fiscal year. The company also intends to overhaul development, partly by increasing use of 3-D CAD. This is expected to reduce parts counts. The firm also aims to improve the efficiency of workers and production processes at factories. These efforts are seen lowering the break-even point for the business from 185 billion yen (US$2.07 billion) in sales to 180 billion yen (US$2.02 billion) — down more than 20 billion yen (US$22.47 million) from fiscal 2010. In next fiscal year, sales of semiconductor steppers are expected to drop about 10%. But sales of lucrative LCD steppers will likely jump about 30%, thanks to the strong demand for small and mid-size panels used in devices such as smartphones. The firm also intends to boost sales of LCD steppers to stabilise the volatile earnings of the precision equipment segment, hoping that such efforts and growing profits for the camera business will help it achieve the targeted 150 billion yen (US$1.685 billion) consolidated operating profit in fiscal 2014.