March 19, 2019 / 7:43 AM / a month ago

Apple supplier AMS agrees joint venture for environmental sensor business

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian chipmaker AMS AG has agreed a joint venture for its environmental sensor business with private equity fund Wise Road Capital, effectively offloading the unit as part of its plan to focus on other business segments.

AMS has suffered from slow demand for Apple’s latest iPhones, which it supplies with face recognition technology sensors, resulting in a nearly 60 percent drop in fourth-quarter core profit.

Wise Road Capital will hold a “small majority” in the new entity, according to an AMS spokesman, while AMS shifts its focus to optical, image and audio sensors.

The private equity fund buys into European and North American high-tech companies and helps them grow in China, according to its website.

It was part of the consortium that bought NXP Semiconductors’ Nexperia business in 2016 before selling it in the largest buyout-backed exit outside of the U.S. market in 2018.

“Wise Road Capital sees immense potential in marketing the excellent technology and products developed by AMS,” said Michael Zhang, Managing Partner at Wise Road Capital.

Environmental sensors detect temperature or moisture and can be used in autos, buildings and air quality monitoring applications.

AMS’s units for ultrasound-based flow sensors — used in smart metering solutions for utilities — and pressure sensors for identifying fluid and gas flows will also be transferred to the joint venture, it said.

Investments in the new entity, which is valued at approximately $120 million, will be made according to the shareholding, the AMS spokesman said.

“This new JV will...(focus) on further advancing and developing AMS’ award-winning environmental, flow and pressure sensor solutions, for which we see the largest market opportunity in China,” said Chris Feige, Executive Vice President at AMS AG.

Stefan Raible, currently general manager of AMS’s environmental sensors business, will head the JV. The staff will continue to work in Eindhoven, Netherlands, where the JV will also be headquartered, according to the spokesman.

Asked how many employees were affected, he said “more like 100 than 1,000”.

Shares in Swiss-listed AMS gained as much as 2.3 percent to 29.26 Swiss francs, while the European tech index was flat. AMS shares traded at around 115 Swiss francs a year ago.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Editing by Louise Heavens and Kirsten Donovan

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