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Steady Oclaro looks for organic growth

31 Jan 2011

With the sharp recovery period from the downturn now over, the streamlined photonic component and module maker is focused on ramping new products.

Oclaro, the maker of photonic chips and optical telecom modules, reported a steady conclusion to calendar 2010 as it re-organized to focus on “solid, sustainable growth”.

The company’s CEO Alain Couder said that the surge in demand that had accompanied the end of the downturn in early 2010 was now over, and that a ramp of new products in 2011 would provide the platform for steady, rather than spectacular, growth.

Couder also revealed that the company has now been consolidated from five divisions into two business units, following a series of acquisitions and mergers over the past couple of years:

“We are entering a new phase following the integration of our past acquisitions,” said the CEO. At its heart, the company comprises the old Bookham and Avanex operations, which were merged in 2009. But more recent activity has seen Oclaro acquire telecom-focused Mintera and the former Spectra-Physics laser diode operation in Tucson, Arizona, adding to the range of products made and necessitating an organizational restructure.

“After successfully maintaining design momentum, we are now focused on ramping new products across many of our key markets,” Couder explained. “Consistent with those priorities, we have enhanced our organizational structure to simplify our customer interface and strengthen our execution.”

100 million VCSELs
What that means in practice is that Oclaro now comprises just two business units, called Photonic Components and Optical Network Solutions. The first of those is hedaed up by former COO Jim Haynes and includes each of the company’s chip-manufacturing facilities, including pump lasers, and all non-telecom products, such as the VCSELs now regularly used in optical mice and finger navigation products. The second unit, to be led by Terry Unter, brings together the former Mintera operation with Oclaro’s existing telecom module business.

So successful have those VCSEL applications been that Oclaro has now shipped no fewer than 100 million such devices in just the past three years, with popular smart phones such as the Research in Motion Blackberry range now routinely featuring the technology.

The diversification does not end there - Oclaro VCSELs now feature in the world's smallest commercial atomic clocks, recently launched by the company Symmetricom and available for only $1500.

Oclaro, which exhibited at both the main Photonics West and life-science-focused BiOS events in San Francisco in late January, is also aiming to ramp production to support laser diode applications in cosmetics, for example hand-held laser equipment designed to reduce wrinkles. Combined with the expected ramp of a tunable XFP optical module for telecom applications (Oclaro says that it has a design win and is in currently in qualification), and the second half of calendar 2011 is expected to witness a period of organic revenue growth.

In the closing quarter of 2010, Oclaro essentially broke even on revenues of $120.3 million, which were very slightly down on the previous quarter. But for the current financial quarter, which ends in March, the company is anticipating sequential revenue growth of up to 9% - forecasting sales in the range of $123 million to $131 million.

The solid performance and positive outlook has been sufficient to see Oclaro’s stock price, which crashed 40% after the release of its previous quarterly results three months ago, steadily recover all of that lost ground. As of the January 28 Nasdaq close, Oclaro was trading at $13.27, equivalent to a market capitalization of $661 million.

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