ASM Lithography Holding N.V.

Eindhoven, a city of 250,000, recently suffered a major blow as top executives of homegrown giant Philips Electronics picked up their bags and moved to the lights and glamour of Amsterdam. I'm several miles from Eindhoven in a light industrial park in suburban Veldhoven (population 10,000) and about to visit a Philips' spin-off, ASM Lithography.

Founded in 1984 and spun-off from Philips in 1995 (though Philips still owns 23%), ASML manufactures machines that make wafer chips and I don't mean the edible kind. Revenues for the first six months of 1999 were $421 million. These machines cost roughly $5 million a piece and ASML holds about 30% market share (Canon and Nikon are the other big players).

Jan Hoefnagels, Investor Relations, gives me a warm reception in the lobby of the four-story building. Built in 1995, about 200 employees work in this ordinary-looking white structure. However, several buildings across the street along with several other new buildings down the road house another 1,600 workers.

Nothing special about CEO William Maris' second floor, corner office although the painting of a tennis player hanging on a wall does have some significance. Maris was a Dutch tennis champion and played Wimbledon six times. He hasn't much of a view since large trees block his view. Along with three real plants I make note of the framed ASML stock certificates on a wall. Maris' office also doubles as the boardroom with a white rectangular-shaped table seating 11.

Company perks here include share options for all employees and Hoefnagels says they're tax-free. Before leaving I'm taken across the street for a look-see in a company research development facility.