Bookham makes big deal for silicon components

U.S. headquarters ready in Columbia

January 25, 2001|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Bookham Technology PLC, a British fiber-optics company that is opening its North American headquarters in Howard County, said yesterday that it made a multimillion-dollar deal with Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bookham announced that it would supply up to 10,000 pieces of equipment to Fujitsu each month this year.

Bookham makes telecommunications components that help information flow along fiber-optic networks. With headquarters in Oxfordshire, England, Book- ham announced plans last month to open a North American headquarters and manufacturing plant in Columbia that is expected to eventually employ 1,000. Monday is the official opening day.

The component that Bookham is selling to Fujitsu is a piece of equipment that transforms digital data from a home or office computer into light pulses and transmits it through a fiber-optic network. The product can carry signals going in two different directions on a single fiber, according to the company.

"This looks like a good win for Bookham," said Jay Patel, a senior analyst who follows the fiber-optic components industry for the Yankee Group in Boston.

Fujitsu was already one of Bookham's customers; last year the British company shipped more than 12,000 pieces of equipment to Fujitsu, according to Bookham.

What makes Bookham's technology different from that of other optical component makers is that the company uses silicon, while most components are made using silica. There is some debate in the industry about which material is better.

Patel said the deal announced yesterday signals support for silicon.

"It sounds like they're getting some good endorsement for the silicon technology," Patel said. "And Fujitsu is one of the leading vendors for optical equipment, so striking a good relationship with Fujitsu, it bodes really well for Bookham."

It is still too early to tell how much headway silicon will make, Patel said, but the contract win is a sizable one for a small company like Bookham.

"We have to keep in mind that they're not that big yet," Patel said.

Andrew G. Rickman founded the British fiber-optic component company in 1988 in a room above his garage. It has since grown to a publicly traded company with about 1,000 employees and offices in England, Japan, France, North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas, California and, soon, Maryland.

Giorgio Anania, Bookham's president, called Fujitsu an "early believer" in Bookham's technology. "As the needs of the market evolve, requiring more wavelengths or higher speeds, our technology will be available to meet theses needs," Anania said in a statement yesterday.

Shares of Bookham closed yesterday at $21.81, up 88 cents.

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