Tokyo: Japanese precision equipment and camera maker Nikon Corp fell to a smaller-than-expected quarterly operating loss as strong sales of digital cameras offset sluggish sales of chip-making equipment.
The world’s No.2 maker of chip steppers after Netherlands-based ASML is trimming its stepper operations as it awaits a recovery in spending by major chipmakers, who have emerged from a prolonged downturn.
The company, which also competes with Canon Inc in both steppers and in digital cameras, cut its stepper outlook by 3 units to 33 units in the year to March.
Steppers are multimillion dollar machines used to scan circuitry onto silicon wafers to make semiconductors.
But it nudged up its digital SLR camera sales target by 100,000 units to 3.55 million units, and lifted its compact digital camera sales forecast by 1 million units to 11.5 million units.
For the full financial year to next March, Nikon, which also makes digital single-lens reflex cameras and compact cameras, kept its recently revised forecast for an operating loss of ¥18 billion ($199 million), in line with the average forecast of five analysts for a ¥19.5 billion loss.
Its operating loss came to ¥20.3 billion for July-September, down from a profit of ¥25.4 billion last year and beating an average estimate for a loss of ¥25.4 billion by six analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Elpida Memory Inc, which pitted ASML against Nikon last year to get a lower price on steppers, reported a quarterly operating gain of ¥800 million on Thursday, turning a profit for the first time in 8 quarters.
Elpida said it expects bit growth -- a measure of output in terms of memory capacity -- to hit 10 to 15% in October-November, and to reach an annual 40% in the year to March, up from a previous forecast for 20% growth.
Shares of Nikon closed down 0.2% ahead of the announcement, while Elpida closed down 0.6%. Tokyo’s electrical machinery sub-index fell 1.4%.