Aixtron has made a good start into the new fiscal year 2021. The Company, which is one of the world's leading providers of deposition equipment to the semiconductor industry, strongly increased orders, revenues and net income in the first quarter of 2021 year-on-year.
The equipment manufacturer's order intake in the first three months of 2021 increased by 81% year-on-year to EUR 124.4 million (previous year: EUR 68.8 million). This means that Aixtron has exceeded the high order intake of the last quarter of 2020 (EUR 92.2 million).
In the first quarter of 2021, Aixtron's equipment for the production of semiconductor devices based on gallium nitride was in particularly high demand; they are used for energy-efficient power electronics, for example for more compact and higher performing chargers, and for wireless data transmission in 5G mobile communications. The order backlog as of March 31, 2021, was EUR 223.5 million, up around 53% on the prior-year quarter's level of EUR 146.3 million.
The MOCVD specialist for the semiconductor industry also improved its revenues by 21% to EUR 49.5 million in the first quarter of the year. The systems for the production of devices for applications in optoelectronics were the main sales driver in the first quarter. The focus was on equipment for the production of lasers for use in optical data communication and 3D sensor technology.
Systems for the manufacture of energy-efficient power electronics based on gallium nitride and silicon carbide were another important sales driver. They are used, for example, for fast charging of the batteries of mobile devices such as smartphones and in the powertrain for electric vehicles.
At EUR 17.3 million, gross profit exceeded the previous year's result (EUR 14.6 million) by 18% with a gross margin of 35% (previous year: 36%). Higher sales volume effects compared to the previous year were partially offset by the impact of the weaker US dollar. Furthermore, additional expenses were incurred in the reporting quarter for preparing production capacities for the increased output planned for the second half of the year.
In particular, to bring next-generation MOCVD systems for various applications to market maturity, the high-tech equipment supplier to the semiconductor industry spent EUR 11.9 million in the first three months of 2021 for Research & Development (previous year: EUR 14.4 million). This includes lower ongoing costs for OLED technology.
Operating expenses of EUR 18.0 million increased by 15% year-on-year in Q1/2021 (Q1/2020: EUR 15.7 million). A positive one-off benefit in the previous year resulted in other operating income of EUR 2.9 million at that time.
Aixtron's operating result (EBIT) of EUR -0.7 million in the first quarter of 2021 improved year-on-year (EUR -1.1 million), mainly due to revenue growth. The net result increased substantially to EUR 3.8 million compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, primarily due to further recognition of deferred tax assets (Q1/2020: EUR -0.8 million). The manufacturer of deposition equipment achieved a gross margin of 35% (previous year: 36%) and an EBIT margin of -1% (previous year: -3%).
Forecast 2021: Accelerated growth
For the financial year 2021, the Management Board continues to expect a strong upturn in business compared to the previous year. Based on the results for the first three months of 2021 and the internal assessment of the demand development, the Executive Board confirms the previously issued full-year guidance with regard to order intake, revenues, and gross margin and raises it in regard to the EBIT margin. This also takes into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which at this stage is not considered to be significant for the Aixtron Group's business.
In terms of order intake, the Executive Board anticipates to come out at the upper end of the EUR 340 million to EUR 380 million range. In terms of revenues, Aixtron also expects to achieve the upper end of the EUR 320 million to EUR 360 million range. A gross margin of approximately 40% is still expected to be achieved. Due to the improved revenue expectations, the Executive Board is raising its EBIT margin expectation from previously 16% to now around 18%.