Ams starts Osram domination with a photonics makeover (UPDATED)

March 9, 2021
It’s chips ahoy as the acquisition officially strengthens and the new CEO comes in.

At long last, Austrian sensor company ams has gained “domination” of Germany’s Osram. And with that, Osram has immediately set about emphasizing its photonics and optics operations on a redesigned corporate homepage in a manner that more than ever relegates the lighting business to secondary status.

The website makeover supports the notion that, as LEDs Magazine has reported, Osram could sell off much of what remains of its general lighting and Internet of Things (IoT) lighting business, a process that began recently with the sale of a Bulgarian lighting components factory.

Osram’s veer toward the chip side of its business is not new. Former CEO Olaf Berlien began angling the Munich-based company that way a good two years ago or more, and sharpened the focus throughout the difficult year-long acquisition process by Premstaetten-based ams.

Ams acquired Osram last July. At the time, however, it did not manage to gain enough shares to benefit from “domination” under German law.

Without domination, it was limited in its ability to integrate Osram and gain access to its cash. But ams was steadfast in protracted efforts to achieve domination through means including shareholder approval. Two weeks ago, LEDs Magazine reported that domination looked likely to happen soon. Sure enough, ams finally cleared the remaining procedural hurdle last Wednesday, when late in the day, it announced that the “domination and profit and loss transfer agreement” had been entered into a Munich commercial register.

“Through combining ams and Osram, we become a global leader in optical solutions,” ams CEO Alexander Everke said last week upon completion.

While “optical solutions” does not rule out general illumination, IoT, and connected lighting, it is a phrase geared increasingly around chip-level business, in line with ams’ vocation as a maker of sensors used in mobile phones, health equipment, and elsewhere. For Osram, that means that the business of making optical chips including LEDs and lasers is taking precedence like never before over endeavors to outfit offices and the like with smart lighting systems and software.

Nothing on the newly ams-dominated Osram international homepage jumps out and screams “smart offices.” The once prominently featured “Lightelligence” IoT platform is nowhere in view. The freshly-minted page features five colorful pictures and graphics all evoking three different chip-level concepts that Osram calls “photonics,” “chipleds,” and “LIDAR.” These concepts can also be seen on some other Osram group websites although the layouts may differ.

The concepts of smart offices or even general illumination are not entirely missing. Click through the homepage, and you will find references to architectural lighting and human-centric lighting, among others. But without question, the emphasis is on digital, photonic applications such as health monitoring, visualization, facial and fingerprint recognition, navigation, gesture recognition, automobiles, virtual and augmented reality, and so forth.

One area that features prominently is “health and well being,” which includes horticultural lighting. As LEDs has observed, horticulture looks likely to survive an ams sell-off of Osram operations. So too does UV-C lighting. Last month, Osram acquired a stake in Livermore, CA-based UV-C LED maker Bolb Inc.

The same cannot be said for connected lighting operations and for what’s left of general lighting (Osram has continued to dabble in general lighting, as recently as last summer announcing a project at the Shenzhen World Exhibition Center in China). Osram has in recent years sold off luminaire groups such as Siteco. For smart lighting, it has been left with software and services, which is part of a group that ams’ Everke described in November as “not a strategic asset for us.”

Now, on its redesigned websites Osram notes that “ams group and Osram group are in the process of integration,” without offering any update on what might be on its way out and when.

That “process of integration” has already included the appointment of ams chief financial officer Ingo Bank as CEO of Osram. Bank took over for Berlien on Mar. 1, and is serving in the dual ams and Osram roles.

More changes are sure to come. LEDs will be reporting on them.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

*Updated Mar. 10, 2021 11:00 AM for Osram homepage reference.

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.