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JDS Uniphase Bullish on Chinese Crystal Maker

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2000
Gaynell Terrell

Industry insiders are speculating whether there will be a temporary shortage of doped vanadate crystals for laser production following JDS Uniphase Corp.'s buyout of crystal maker Fujian Casix Laser Inc. of Fuzhou, China.

JDS Uniphase has a recent history of buying suppliers critical to telecom. And undoped vanadate is highly sought for use in advanced fiber optic components such as pigtails, jumpers, isolators, beam displacers and polarization beamsplitters.

"Telecommunications is screaming for more than the industry can produce," said Ron Humphrey, director of sales and marketing for Litton Airtron of Charlotte, N.C., currently the only US manufacturer of YVO4. Litton also is committed to alexandrite crystal production for hair removal applications, making it unlikely it could significantly boost YVO4 production, he said.

"[YVO4] is an extremely difficult crystal to grow, doped or undoped. It will be interesting to see who gets back into [production]. In the short term, there could be a shortage," Humphrey said.

YVO4 is one of the most efficient laser host crystals for diode-pumped solid-state lasers. It also has found favor in numerous industrial and research applications, surpassing even YAG lasers where compact design and single-longitudinal-mode output are needed.

Anthony Muller Sr., vice president and chief financial officer of JDS Uniphase, said the company expects to boost the Casix work force. Casix will honor its contracts as a supplier of doped crystals to laser manufacturers, he added.

"I'm sure that people in the solid-state business that need to get these materials would prefer to get a statement of the long-term intention of Casix, rather than just to say they will honor contracts," said Dana Marshall, CEO of laser manufacturer Cutting Edge Optronics Inc. in St. Charles, Mo. Cutting Edge buys crystals from a variety of sources.

As of mid-June, federal regulators had yet to approve JDS Uniphase's $19.7 billion acquisition of competitor E-Tek Dynamics. Antitrust officials want to ensure that a buyout will not substantially reduce competition in the fiber optic components arena. JDS Uniphase has purchased five suppliers since September 1999 without objection.

The buyout of Casix is JDS Uniphase's first venture in China. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Casix, formerly held by a state-owned corporation, employs about 750. The acquisition did not include the company's BBO crystal business applied to frequency doubling and tripling of certain lasers.

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