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 50% of Cree's sales, but that's down from more than 60% in previous years. Boosted by the acquisition of Ruud Lighting, the lighting systems segment grew to nearly 40% of sales in 2014 from single digits in previous years. Power and RF products round out the company's segments.
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 nearly 50% in fiscal 2014. China, which has been declining in recent years, contributes about 30%; all Asian countries together represent about 40% of total revenue.
Sales and Marketing
More than 50% of Cree's sales are made to distributors; in fiscal 2014 Arrow Electronics and Home Depot accounted for 13% and 11% of total sales, respectively.
Cree has enjoyed extraordinary revenue growth over the last several years. Revenue surged by 19% from $1.39 billion in 2013 to $1.65 billion in 2014, a company milestone. The historic growth for 2014 was due to higher sales across all three of its reportable segments. This was lead by a 43% increase in lighting products sales, which was fueled by new product introductions
Profits were up by 43% from $87 million in 2013 to $124 million in 2014. This was due to the higher revenue coupled with a decrease in its loss on disposal or impairment of long-lived assets charge. Cree's operating cash flow has risen sharply the last two years, increasing to $319 million in 2014 from $285 million in 2013.
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.