Cree has its name in lights. Its blue, green, and near-ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (LEDs) -- made from silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) -- are used in dashboard lights, architectural light fixtures, market tickers, and video screens. Cree also sells SiC wafers, which work better at higher temperatures and voltages than other silicon devices, and SiC and GaN materials. In addition, it offers lighting systems (both LED and traditional), as well as power and radio-frequency (RF) products such as Schottky diodes and transistors. The company makes most of its products at plants in the US (North Carolina, Wisconsin) and China. More than 50% of sales come from outside the US.
LED products (chips, components, and SiC wafers) account for about 37% of Cree's sales, but that's down from about 50% in previous years. The lighting systems segment grew to about 55% of sales in 2015 (ended June), a 28% increase from 2014. Power and RF products round out the company's segments with 8% of sales.
The US is Cree's largest geographic market and its impact has increased substantially, having grown from less than 20% of sales in fiscal 2010 to 57% in 2015. The China has declined to account for just 21%; all Asian countries together represent about 28% of total revenue.
Sales and Marketing
More than 50% of Cree's sales are made to distributors; in 2015
accounted for 12% and 11% of total sales, respectively.
After several years of steady growth, Cree's revenue stepped back 1% in 2015 (ended June) to $1.6 billion from 2014. A sharp 28% decline in LED product sales outweighed strong revenue growth from lighting products, 28% higher, and power and RF products, 15% higher.
Cree posted a loss of $64 million in 2015, a turnaround from a $124 million profit in 2014. The loss was blamed on disposal or impairment of long-lived assets. Cash flow from operations fell to $181 million in 2015 from $319 million in 2014.
Cree created the first blue LED, which, when combined with red and yellow LEDs, creates a full spectrum of colors. The technology has become an industry standard and expands the applications of LED lighting. To leverage this core technology, Cree has introduced the XLamp family of high-power packaged LEDs for specialty lighting applications, hoping to stay one step ahead of the competition. Cree's XLamp products have a wide array of residential and commercial uses, including appliance lighting and reading lamps, as well as backlighting for large flat-panel and retail displays.
The trends towards increased energy-efficient and environmental lighting, and the growing number of standard lighting products that use LEDs, have helped Cree weather a challenging economic environment better than many in the electronics industry. The company has combined external acquisitions and internal R&D to broaden its offerings -- and increase its sales and market reach -- into LED lighting fixtures, power switching, and RF products.
In 2015 Cree announced it would spin off the Power and RF segment, named Wolfspeed, into a public company. In 2016, however, it sold the unit to Infineon for $850 million. The move unlocked the value of the unit for Cree
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2015 Cree bought Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc., a maker of power modules and power electronics applications, for $13.8 million. APEI became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cree and was renamed Cree Fayetteville.