Company Overview and History
Echelon was founded in 1988 by Clifford “Mike” Markkula Jr., who also has served as CEO of Apple in its early days. For years, the company operated in two divisions: Internet of Thing (IoT) and Grid. Both sides suffered operational difficulties and wasn’t able to turn to profit. New CEO Ron Sege was brought in October 2010 to try to turn the ship. In August 2014, Echelon agreed to sell the whole grid business to a European company S&T AG. Around the same time, it also made an acquisition of Lumeware, a smart lighting startup. It was essentially an asset swap, so that the new company can get rid of non-core business and focus on smart lighting – the area management thinks has the most potential.
The troubled operation was reflected by the stock price as it lost almost 95% value since 2007. Also noted, that the firm had a 10 for 1 reverse split in December 2015, so you are basically looking at a penny stock to some extent ($0.6 if adjusted for the reverse split).
After the changes, the business operates in two segments: 1) embedded systems and 2) smart lighting. Embedded systems include the legacy IoT division’s products which are the networking products (chips, routers, gateways & software etc.) for Industrial IoT devices (smart meters, refrigerators, etc.), however this side of business kept deteriorating on a continued basis. Smart lighting, on the other hand, consist the acquired Lumeware products plus the existing lighting control IoT products (wired & wireless controllers, gateways, servers & software etc.) In the most recent investor presentation, management indicated the lighting business has seen 4 straight quarters increase (however, without further details). Clearly, the management has identified the lighting business as the future of company and allocated resources accordingly to pursue this opportunity (e.g. hiring lighting controlling sales veteran Rick Schuett on April 2016)
Basically, it is an unloved business by Wall Street as the legacy businesses are doomed and the turnaround seems to take much longer than expected, if not impossible. When a stock looks like a road kill, it may be a great opportunity for investor who can see through what appears at the surface. Next thing is to examine whether the price is attractive enough to make this crappy business (suppose it is for now) an attractive investment.
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