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June 7, 1990

EVEN JAPAN INQUIRES ABOUT OXFORD’S SYNCHROTRON BUT COSTS OVERRUN AGAIN

By CBR Staff Writer

Peter Williams, chief executive of The Oxford Instruments Group based in Eynsham, Oxford has carried out the changes that the business required to make it fit for the 1990s. It is now seeing a spectacular rise in its profitability, reporting pre-tax profits up 76% to UKP20m on turnover flat at the UKP100m mark. The group now has four main businesses split fairly evenly in terms of their contribution to revenues, ranging from scientific research which yields more than 25% of turnover, through analytical systems and patient monitoring, to the smallest division, semiconductor processing, which produces around UKP15m in revenue. Aside from its synchrotron project, this last division has three other activities: plasma processing, ion beam milling, and focussed ion beam systems, which are all part of wafer fabrication. As for the synchrotron project – this is to develop a synchrotron storage ring for X-ray lithography which IBM intends to use to etch circuit features of 0.5 microns and below (CI No 1,319) – Oxford Instruments has declared another cost overrun of UKP1.5m, bringing the total cost overrun to UKP4m over the past two years. IBM has funded the project to an undisclosed tune, while the UK Department of Trade & Industry is also reported to have thrown in some money. Once the ring is ready to ship, (it now only awaiting some final tests) Oxford will be selling them for $25m each. Williams says that he has already been approached by a number of potential customers from the US, Japan and Germany, which suggests that Oxford is going to have a crucial sales lead time over its closest competitor in this technology area, the Japanese consortium KK Sortec. Oxford’s other divisions are looking good as well: Oxford’s partner Siemens AG has contributed a profit of UKP523,000 to the group’s figures from the joint venture for virtual magnetic resonance imaging. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Link Scientific Group has broadened the base of the Oxford Analytical Systems business making it stronger and enabling it to rationalise its distribution. A strong cash flow in the second half means the group’s total net borrowings now stand at UKP1m down from UKP10m at the interim stage, so Williams is confident about the future.

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