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2 December 2009


II-VI supplier 5N buys Firebird to expand into III-Vs and substrate making

5N Plus Inc of Montreal, Canada has completed the acquisition of Firebird Technologies Inc, a private company in Trail, British Columbia that manufactures compound semiconductor products and pure metals.

5N Plus was founded in 2000 after developing electronic materials within Canadian natural resource company Noranda Inc (one of the world’s largest mining firms). It focuses on specialty high-purity metals such as tellurium, cadmium and selenium, and also produces related II-VI semiconducting compounds such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and cadmium sulphide (CdS) as precursors for the growth of crystals for electronic applications, including infra-red detectors for night-vision systems, gamma-ray detectors for nuclear imaging in medicine, thermoelectric modules for cooling, and thin-film photovoltaic cells for solar panels. The firm is an integrated producer, with both primary and secondary refining capabilities (enabling it to control the entire manufacturing process), and also provides recycling services to treat production residues.

Founded in 1991, Firebird’s main products — which include indium antimonide (InSb) wafers as well as antimony, indium and tin pure metals — are sold worldwide and used in electronic and optical applications.

The strategic acquisition enables 5N to not only broaden its product line into III-V metals (including indium) but also to address the semiconductor wafer business. 5N’s president & CEO Jacques L’Écuyer says that Firebird has expertise in crystal growth and the ability to further strengthen 5N’s position as a producer of high-purity metals.

“Becoming part of the 5N Plus group will provide us with greater technical, financial and marketing resources,” comments Firebird’s CEO Don Freschi.

“We plan on making additional investments in Trail, BC in the near future to expand Firebird's activities and leverage our strategic long-term supply agreements for minor metals with Teck Metals Ltd,” says L’Écuyer. This includes indium and germanium feedstock, in accordance with a concurrent memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with Teck Metals Ltd, a subsidiary of Teck Resources Ltd (a producer of base metals and minor metals), for the long-term supply of strategic metals.

Teck aims to provide 5N with a stable source of minor metal feedstocks including indium, cadmium and germanium. The MOU also outlines the intention of 5N and Teck to cooperate in assessing future business opportunities to support the growth of Firebird. As well as entering into minor-metals supply agreements, 5N and Teck expect to conclude additional agreements in the near future.

“Strengthening of our relationship with Teck will provide 5N Plus with a stable source of critical minor metals and enable us to address a number of new business opportunities aimed at supporting the growth in Trail,” says L’Écuyer. Establishing a closer working relationship with Teck is a key component of 5N’s long-term growth strategy, which calls for both a broadening of the firm's product portfolio and an increasing robustness in its supply chain, he adds.

See related item:

5N Plus extends First Solar supply agreements; increases minimum order quantities

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