Philips CEO says company is winning market share with $5 LEDs

AMSTERDAM – The chief executive of Royal Philips NV says his company — already the world’s biggest light maker — is winning market share in next-generation LED lighting technology.

While presenting third quarter earnings on a conference call Monday, Frans van Houten did not give a specific figure on the company’s global market share. But the report showed LED lighting sales grew by 33 per cent from a year ago in the three months through September. They accounted for 30 per cent of the 2.08 billion euros ($2.85 billion) in lighting sales Philips had in the quarter.

“We must be doing something right” he said.

Van Houten said Philips is now offering consumer LEDs in the U.S. for $5 at Home Depot and in partnerships with several major utility companies.

“We see a strong uptake of that particular lamp,”he said. The “early adopters of LEDs were our professional customers but now we see rapid consumer adoption occurring.”

He expects that trend to continue not only because the costs of individual lights are coming down, but also as technology enthusiasts explore the possibility of controlling LEDs via home wireless networks.

Philips reported third quarter net profit of 281 million euros ($384 million), compared with 105 million euros in the same period a year ago, due mostly to cost-cutting. The company has shed 4,900 jobs over the past year, more than 4 per cent of its 114,300 total.

Sales fell 3.4 per cent to 5.62 billion euros, but mainly because of the impact of the strong euro. Philips said sales would have risen around 3 per cent without the currency effect.

The figures were better than analysts had expected, particularly for China and India, and shares rose 6.3 per cent to 25.96 euros in Amsterdam trading.

All of the company’s divisions showed stronger operating profits, but the biggest improvement was at the company’s lighting arm, where the strong LED sales and lower restructuring charges led to a 140 million euro profit, from a 14 million loss in the same period a year ago.

At its consumer products arm, which sells shavers, toothbrushes, baby bottles and coffee machines, operating profit was 102 million euros from 63 million, helped by lower restructuring costs.

At Philips’ health care arm, which sells high-end imaging equipment, operating profit was 283 million euros, up from 255 million euros.

Due to the recent standoffs over the U.S. budget and debt ceiling, customers have been “very, very reluctant to make strong capital commitments,” Van Houten said.