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Light Gives Us Life But Is Actually a Terrible Business

Without light there is no life. Yet the two biggest companies that allow us to inhabit the hours from dusk to dawn can’t wait to try other businesses. Shareholders of market leader Royal Philips NV vote on whether to spin off the lighting operations. Why? It all comes down to light-emitting diodes. Traditionally Philips, Osram Licht AG and General Electric Co. were the three biggest brands in lighting. Indeed, GE was founded by Thomas Edison, the 19th century lightbulb pioneer. The growth of LEDs has opened the industry up to new competitors, particularly those with expertise in semiconductors such as North Carolina-based Cree Inc. and Samsung Electronics. That’s added to price pressure and eroded market share.

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