Optical components

Opto Speed Splinters

Plans to resurrect the Swiss components maker Opto Speed SA have taken an unusual turn, which may result in the formation of not one, but three new companies.

Opto Speed's product line managers have been busy since the company filed for bankruptcy back in July (see Opto Speed in Trouble). Rather than keep the company intact, they are setting up three new businesses based on their respective product lines.

"We realized that we may have a better chance with three new smaller companies, than by staying together," says Christian Velez, former manager of Opto Speed's superluminescent diode (SLED) product line and founder of Exalos AG, the first of the splinter startups to get off the ground.

Exalos opened its doors for business on August 1. It has already shipped products to customers and booked significant revenues, according to Velez. SLEDs were one of Opto Speed's strongest products, he says, because the markets lie predominantly outside the long-suffering telecom sector, in areas such as fiber-optic gyroscopes, sensors, and medicine.

But what of Opto Speed's other products? According to the company's Website, which was still available at the time of writing, Opto Speed had five product lines in total: SLEDs, photodiodes, lasers, Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers (SOAs) , and optical front ends.

Markus Blaser, former product line manager for photodiodes is also in the process of setting up a startup, according to sources. But little information is available, as the company is in what Velez calls "mute" mode. Blaser remained mute at press time.

Then there's lasers. Originally Deutsche Telekom AG's (NYSE: DT) III-V semiconductor group, which was acquired by Opto Speed in 1999, the laser product line is apparently still operational… for the time being. Unlike the rest of Opto Speed, it is based in Germany, where different bankruptcy regulations may apply. "They are continuing operations while they try to make a new company out of this," confirms Velez.

The two remaining product lines -- SOAs and optical front ends -- will get the chop. While still part of Opto Speed, these two product lines were merged with the SLED group, and have since been discontinued. "With the expertise we have in our team, we could continue with these products, but there is no market," Velez notes.

Velez is at pains to point out that the different startups have a good relationship. "We are working not together, but not against each other," he says. "There is no fight amongst ourselves, because we all serve different markets."

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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