SMT’s Echoes of Elcoteq

In Europe, Elcoteq teeters on bankruptcy. Three of its subsidiaries have already declared, and the corporate parent has seen its access to cash all but dry up.

In Asia, a smaller but still significant restructuring also is taking place, with the outcome just as uncertain. SMT Holdings, ranked 45th in last year’s CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY Top 50, missed a debt repayment in March, and is negotiating with its 11 top lenders to stave off a takeover. While 10 of the 11 have signed on, it’s a slippery slope: falling revenues and massive losses can be explained away in a down market. But the EMS sector has been in recovery mode and the hemorrhaging at SMT Holdings continues. An independent auditor, Deloitte & Touch, this week acknowledged SMT is working on a restructuring plan, but said the assumptions were so great that it couldn’t even issue an opinion on the EMS company’s chances as a “going concern.” Its report is basically accountant speak for, “We don’t like what we see.”

Echoes of Elcoteq abound. Customers can’t risk product delays because their EMS provider is out of cash, and tend to bolt at the first opportunity. Competitors smell blood in the water. The situation snowballs. As of this writing, the prognosis for SMT Holdings is grim.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow