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Orbcomm’s delighted with Verizon’s IoT valuation but plays down AIS wins

Marc Eisemberg.

PARIS – Satellite machine-to-machine and Internet of Things services provider Orbcomm Inc. on Aug. 4 reported double-digit increases in quarterly revenue and gross profit and said its recent agreement with a Chinese conglomerate could open a vast new market for the company.

Rochelle Park, New Jersey-based Orbcomm, which has been growing both organically and through a series of small and midsize acquisitions, recently received an indirect boost to its business with cellular network provider Verizon’s planned $2.4 billion purchase of Dublin, Ireland-based Fleetmatics.

Fleetmatics, whose U.S. division is based in Boston, expects to report $344 million in revenue in 2016, with an EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, equivalent to 33 percent of revenue. Verizon’s bid, expected to close by the end of this year, is thus for seven times projected 2016 revenue.

“W love the valuation that Verizon gave,” Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc J. Eisenberg said in a conference call with investors, adding that Verizon appeared to be adopting Orbcomm’s strategy of rolling up smaller niche-market companies, if on a larger scale.

Orbcomm expects to report $200 million in revenue in 2016, with an EBITDA margin of 33 percent.

Fleetmatics provides connectivity solutions generally to small transport fleets, whereas Orbcomm focuses on the cargo side of its markets. But the companies share a focus on connecting the Internet of Things.

Orbcomm operates a fleet of 41 satellites in low Earth orbit and connects transport cargo through both terrestrial cellular and satellite links through small subscriber modules. Orbcomm is also a reseller of higher-speed satellite connectivity using London-based Inmarsat’s fleet of larger satellites.

As of June 30, Orbcomm said it had 1.65 million billable subscribers, a 27 percent increase over a year ago.

A China partner that’s welcome now, and potentially large later

Eisenberg said Orbcomm’s relationship with China International Marine Containers (CIMC), which he said is the world’s largest manufacturer of shipping containers, starts relatively small could position Orbcomm for bigger things in China and elsewhere.

In the three months ending June 30, CIMC ordered another 1,000 Orbcomm modem chipsets for a series of pilot projects that will go commercial in 2017.

The CIMC business will total “”in the low tens of thousands of units in the next couple of years and then go on from there,” Eisenberg said. “They build 2.5 million containers a year. They are owned by Cosco [China Ocean Shipping Co.], which is the Chinese Maersk, and by Chinese banks. CIMC is our partner in China. They’re helping us get Chinese licenses for Orbcomm.”

Orbcomm reported total revenue of $50.1 million for the three months ending June 30, up 12 percent from a year ago. Sales increases were reported for both the services and product divisions. Adjusted EBITDA was $12.1 million, up 17 percent.

The company narrowed its operating loss to $1.6 million from $11.6 million for the same period in 2015.

The increases came despite continued softness in Orbcomm’s government and heavy-equipment markets, and in Brazil.

Iin addition to tracking assets fitted with Orbcomm SIM cards, the company operates an Automatic Identification System (AIS) service that collects maritime traffic data on ship identity, heading and speed on the satellites and then relays it to coastal authorities.

Despite Eisenberg’s repeated insistence that AIS was never going to be a market with hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue, the sector has attracted multiple private sector and government players.

AIS wins are good, but it’s a modest market

On Aug. 1, Orbcomm and its partner, LuxSpace of Luxembourg, an affiliate of OHB SE of Germany – a satellite and rocket component builder and also a longtime Orbcomm shareholder – announced they had won a contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), located in Lisbon, Portugal.

The heavily competed contract is valued at up to 10.2 million euros ($11.2 million) over four years starting late this year.

Eisenberg said Orbcomm’s share of the contract is about 50 percent, with the rest going to LuxSpace. LuxSpace designs its own small satellites for AIS. LuxSpace previously concluded a partnership with Orbcomm competitor exactEarth of Canada to build and launch an AIS satellite for EMSA and the 22-nation European Space Agency.

Eisenberg said the EMSA contract win and an earlier AIS contract with Louisville, Kentucky-based Genscape, a provider of energy information for the commodity, shipping and financial markets, has positioned Orbcomm as the market leader.

Eisenberg cautioned investors not to get overly excited about this.

“Eight years ago we said this was a science project with 1-2 satellites and a $1 million or $2 million business,” Eisenberg said. “Then after our launch we thought it would be a $5 million to $7 million business and we’re trending to $6 million now. All in, we see it as a $10 million to $15 million a year business.

“It’s funny: We’re talking down the estimates versus what our competitors do — ‘It’s a half-a-billion-dollar business!’ It’s not. I hope I’m wrong,” he said.

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Orbcomm’s delighted with Verizon’s IoT valuation but plays down AIS wins

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