By Mike Rogoway

The Oregonian

Shares in Clark County laser manufacturer nLight Corp. have fallen by half since July as the trade war with China takes a toll on growth prospects. Quarterly financial results issued Monday indicate nLight expects a marked slowdown in the coming months.

Wall Street anticipated huge demand for nLight’s industrial lasers, manufactured at its headquarters in Clark County and at facilities in Shanghai. Electronics companies use the high-powered lasers to replace traditional cutting, welding and drilling tools.

Sales are growing, but as China and the United States levy tariffs on each other’s products the rate of growth is down sharply. The stock closed down 5.8 percent Monday at $19.30 before the company issued its quarterly results, but jumped almost 14 percent Tuesday to close at $21.96. Investors appeared mollified by nLight’s plans for overcoming the tariffs.

Nearly half of nLight’s revenue came from China last year, but sales there grew just 15 percent in the third quarter, less than half the rate of overall growth. On Monday, nLight said it expects the trade war will reduce its profit margin by 1.5 percentage points in the current quarter.

“It creates uncertainty in an economic environment,” said Jason Willey, nLight’s investor relations director.

Sales last quarter totaled $51 million, nLight said Monday, up 40 percent from a year earlier. But the company said it expects fourth-quarter growth of around 25 percent. Third-quarter profits were $4 million, up from $2.2 million a year ago.

Overall, the trade war’s effect on Silicon Forest manufacturing had been somewhat muted. That’s partly because many categories of electronics were exempt from the initial tariffs, and in part because large manufacturers like Intel have been able to shift production among various countries overseas to escape the tariffs’ impact.

Even though nLight is relatively small, it may be able to capitalize on similar workarounds. Willey said it can escape some tariffs by making products for Chinese customers in its Chinese factories, and producing lasers for American clients in Clark County.

“It does help in terms of being able to move things around,” Willey said.

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