Filtronic seeks partner to cover Durham plant losses

Electronics group Filtronic is looking for a partner to help shoulder the burden of its County Durham semiconductor facility, which costs £1m a month to run.

Filtronic, which this week reported an interim pre-tax loss of £1.5m, said stemming the flood of cash from its compound semiconductor division ‘has assumed the highest priority.’

The telecoms components specialist insisted that it remains committed to the Newton Aycliffe site, which it rescued in 1999 after original owner Fujitsu closed the plant. The deal was a boost to the North East’s fledgling high-tech economy in the heart of Tony Blair’s Sedgefield constituency.

Professor David Rhodes, Filtronics’ executive chairman, admitted that the company had underestimated the time needed to establish its gallium arsenide semiconductor products with customers. This would delay the start of volume production until the end of this year.

But he claimed the division could generate ‘several hundred million pounds’ turnover’ within five to six years. Until then, it would seek an investment partner or a non-competitive company to take some of the plant’s spare capacity.

To smooth the path for the hoped-for investment, Filtronic Compound Semiconductors will operate as a separate business from the rest of the group, which made a profit in the six months to November. Most of the growth came from the the Wireless Infrastructure division, which supplies technology for mobile phone base stations.

Filtronic also makes internal antennae for mobile handsets.

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