Cree revenues up 23 percent in third quarter

dranii@newsobserver.comApril 23, 2013 

Cree exceeded Wall Street’s expectations by posting a 23 percent jump in revenue in its fiscal third quarter, led by sales of its indoor LED lighting fixtures and its new $10 LED light bulb.

“We are benefiting from the global growth in LED lighting adoption and our position as a market leader in both LEDs and LED lighting,” CEO Chuck Swoboda said during a conference call with analysts.

The Durham company produces its own indoor and outdoor LED light fixtures as well as components that other companies use in their lighting products. Its LEDs also are used for illuminating car dashboards, mobile phones, televisions and signs.

Cree reported after the markets closed Tuesday that revenue totaled a record $348.9 million for the quarter that ended March 31, besting the $343 million anticipated by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Quarterly revenue also was up 1 percent from the immediately preceding quarter.

Net income totaled $40.8 million, or 34 cents per share, after excluding stock-based compensation and amortized goodwill. That was in line with analysts’ expectations.

Swoboda also said that sales in the fiscal fourth quarter would range between $365 million and $385 million, which is at the high end of analysts’ projections.

Nevertheless, Cree shares fell as much as 8 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

In an interview after the conference call, Swoboda said of the decline: “I long ago stopped speculating on what happens in the after-market.”

Earlier Tuesday, Cree shares rose $2.15 to $57.69. Its shares have climbed 70 percent this year.

Last month Cree introduced an LED light bulb, the equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent bulb, that retails for $9.97 exclusively at Home Depot – a price that is half the price of some competitors’ LED bulbs. Cree also launched 60-watt equivalents that retail for $12.97 and $13.97 at Home Depot. The bulbs last about 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and use about 85 percent less energy.

“The Cree LED bulb is off to a great start and has generated tremendous excitement,” said Swoboda, who noted that early sales have exceeded expectations.

Analyst Avinash Kant of D.A. Davidson & Co. was upbeat about the LED bulbs in a research note he issued earlier this week.

“We believe that, while these products may not contribute significantly to revenues in the near term, they are a clear game changer for consumer adoption,” Kant said.

Cree’s first-ever consumer advertising debuted over the weekend – humorous commercials that were broadcast during the NBA playoffs featuring actor Lance Reddick, who is known for his roles in “Fringe,” “Lost” and “The Wire.” The commercials were produced by Raleigh ad agency Baldwin&. In one of the commercials, Reddick notes that the light bulb was invented in the 19th century and concludes: “Nostalgia is dumb.”

When an analyst asked about the possibility of Cree launching a “sub-$10” bulb later this year, Swoboda replied: “There is lots of innovation left in the LED consumer bulb category. I’m not going to pre-announce what we may do later in the year. But I assure you we are at the beginning, not the end, of what we think is possible.”

Today, Swoboda said, there are more than 5 billion traditional light bulbs in North America.

“We think each one of those is a good opportunity to upgrade to LED lighting,” he added.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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