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Interview ASM International




Interview with R. de Jong CFO ASM International.

Q.
In 1997 ASM International settled with Applied Materials. Since then ASM International has a large debt toward Applied Materials. What is the current situation concerning this debt?

A.
The current debt toward Applied Materials amounts to $35 million. This balance carries US prime plus two percentage points interest and is due by the end of 2000. The debt is of course part of our refinancing program.

Q.
Because of this debt ASM International does not have a lot of money, can we expect more public or non-public offerings of shares, warrants, bonds or any other financial instruments to attract more money?

A.
ASM International operates in a cyclical industry. Our current balance sheet profile is not reflecting that and, as demonstrated in recent months, we are carefully adding long term and permanent capital. I expect this process to continue so that our equity /debt ratio is more in line with that of our peer group.

Q.
In 1998 the overall semiconductor market was in a downturn, now the semiconductor market is recovering. What is ASMIís opinion on the near term and long term future of the overall semiconductor market?

A.
It is our view that we are at the start of a multi-year growth period. The semiconductor market is strong and this is, of course, a positive development for semiconductor equipment companies like ASM International. In addition, ASM International has a strong product portfolio that is very promising. These products have been taking market share in the last two years as the company has been outperforming the industry.

Q.
Because of the acquisition of Microchemistry ASM International has a good technological advantage compared to ASM Internationalís competition. Can we expect more acquisitions like this in the future?

A.
ASM International focuses on two areas: Chemical Vapor Deposition (Front-End) and Assembly and Packaging (Back-End). We will only consider acquisitions if they give the company a competitive advantage in these two areas of the equipment market.

Q.
The share price of ASM International shares have more than doubled in the last few weeks. Still the price/earning ratio (P/E ratio) of ASM international shares is lower when compared to other shares of semiconductor companies. What do you think should be a normal price/earnings ratio for shares of semiconductor companies over 2000?

A.
I have no opinion on what a normal p/e ratio should be. It is a function of market condition, growth aspects and investor sentiment. There is, however, no reason why the p/e ratio of ASM International should be structurally different from that of itís peer group. The share price movement in the last few weeks is proof that the market is coming round to that view.

Q.
A lot of analysts expect ASM International to make between Ä 1, 00 and Ä 1,25 profit per share next year. Can shareholders expect dividend or will this profit be used for other issues?

A.
It is highly unusual for high-tech companies to pay dividend. Until now, ASM International has not paid a dividend. Although I cannot predict the decisions of the shareholders at the next Annual Meeting, I would be very surprised if such a proposal would be put forward and accepted. The nature of our operations demands large investments in research & development and in working capital, all needed to fuel growth. The return of shareholders on our shares should come from the appreciation of the share price which is now starting. Please remember that we are, in our view, still early in the cycle.

(end of interview)

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