ReFlex is a bendable smartphone prototype than runs on Android with an LG OLED touchscreen.
Human Media Lab
By Aaron Pressman
May 20, 2016

The companies that make screens for smartphones and television sets are planning some serious upgrades over the next few years in a shift to brighter, more vibrant organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, displays.

But first, they’re going to need lots of new manufacturing equipment, giving a serious boost to Applied Materials. The Santa Clara, Ca., semiconductor equipment maker reported on Thursday night that new orders in its quarter ended May 1 hit the highest level in 15 years, sending the stock up over 14% on Friday. The stock rose to $22.72, the highest price in just over a year, in morning trading.

Some recent flagship smartphone models, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, already have a type of OLED screen. But Apple’s iPhone still uses older LED technology, and the device isn’t expected to upgrade until 2017.

Likewise, OLED television screens are currently available mainly on high-end models that cost thousands of dollars, but those are expected to trickle down to more popular models over the next few years.

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“We’re still in a very early innings of OLED but we’re already seeing a significant impact on our business,” CEO Gary Dickerson told analysts on Thursday. “This quarter our orders in display were an all-time record.”

In the just finished quarter, Applied Materials (amat) said new orders rose to $3.45 billion, up 37% and the highest in 15 years. That included a record $700 million of OLED-related orders. Revenue of $2.45 billion and adjusted earnings per share of 34 cents were slightly more than Wall Street had expected. The company also raised its forecast for the next quarter based on the strong orders.

 

Applied Materials is also benefitting from a transition in flash memory chips to so-called 3D NAND technology. Memory makers need new equipment from Applied Materials to create the cutting edge chips that build multiple layers of connections instead of just packing circuits more tightly on a single layer.

The company said it booked a record $1 billion of NAND orders in the quarter.

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