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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Friday, March 1, 2013

National Soccer Hall of Fame star Cobi Jones has a pretty cool house in California—a Spanish-style villa built in the 1920s. He also has an English bulldog named ZuZu that tends to slobber, as well as a wife and young child. I know all this because Jones’ home and family are protected by ADT.

Jones is a participant in an interesting new video advertising campaign from The ADT Corp. called ADT Home Turf. Not only does the video series feature virtual tours of famous athletes’ home for the curious—all the while explaining how the athletes’ ADT systems protect those homes—but it also is tied to a sweepstakes offering a free ADT system and sports tickets.

Here’s how ADT puts it: “Check out how ADT helps some of your favorite athletes secure their own home turf and … enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win an ADT system, a year of free monitoring, and a trip for 2 to a professional basketball playoff game including tickets, airfare, hotel and spending money.”

I got to learn that Jones has an affinity for tequila and that he gets his trademark dreadlocks professionally done. And I also got to see him deal with a “false alarm.” His smartphone notified him that his ADT system detected someone entering his garage side door. The intruder? ZuZu, who got a gentle scolding. Jones instructed his dog to play with dog toys instead of scoping out his in the garage.

After ADT spun off from Tyco this past fall, ADT's CEO Naren Gursahaney told me it's "not a moonshot" for the company to increase its residential penetration from the industry standard of 20 percent to as much as 40 percent. Clever ad campaigns like this should aid in that goal.

 

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An article in Barron’s has the financial media world abuzz because it predicts shares of The ADT Corp. “could climb by more than 20 percent over the next year.”

The article in the latest edition of the weekly financial newspaper owned by Dow Jones cites the push into home automation by the publicly traded ADT, which spun off from Tyco in September. ADT Pulse, introduced in 2010, is the driver of much of ADT’s growth, the article said.

Barron’s also indirectly suggests ADT could buy a rival like Vivint or that ADT itself could be acquired. The article refloats the rumor that AT&T could acquire ADT.

The article concludes: “It may be time for investors to pick up the smartphone and tap the ADT Pulse icon.”

Here’s some more details summarized by Reuters:
 

According to [Barrons], the Boca Raton, Florida-based company is already benefiting from a stronger housing market, rising demand for home healthcare services, and recent acquisitions, and commands 25 percent of the home alarm business and 14 percent of the small business segment.

… At the center of ADT's expansion effort is Pulse, a nearly 2-1/2 year old product that lets customers control settings remotely through devices such as smartphones and tablets.

While Pulse serves just 4 percent of ADT customers overall, the company in January said 19 percent of new customers use it.

ADT last month also set plans to quickly buy back $600 million of stock under an existing $2 billion repurchase program.

… It also said ADT could buy rivals, which are mainly owned by private equity firms such as Blackstone Group LP.  [which owns Vivint]

Based on recent transactions for security companies, ADT could fetch $59 per share in takeover, the newspaper said.

Shares of ADT closed yesterday at $46.57.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vivint made it into Forbes’ annual ranking of America's Most Promising Companies this year, marking the first time the Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security company was named to the exclusive list.

And with a ranking of 46 out of the 100 privately held companies listed, Vivint—which bills itself as the largest home automation services company in North America--actually made it into the top 50 of those successful businesses.

Revenue growth and hiring are two factors used to determine which companies make the list. Forbes lists Vivint’s revenues as $400 million and the number of its employees as 2,533.

Pivot3, an Austin, Texas-based provider of video surveillance storage solutions, is the other security company on this year’s list. Ranking #74, Pivot3 has $31 million in revenue and 92 employees, according to Forbes.

Vivint President Alex Dunn told Security Systems News, “It’s really nice to have third-party validation of what we're trying to accomplish … and it will help bring credibility to our strong management team and the company. But, in the end our success is not based on what awards we win and don’t win, but on how we take care of our customers and how we innovate around products and services [ensuring they’re] simple to use and affordable.”

Here’s more from Vivint’s news release on the Forbes’ list.
 

Vivint's inclusion on Forbes' list comes after a momentous year for the company, in which it crossed the threshold of $30 million in recurring monthly revenue--one of only three companies in its industry to achieve this milestone. Since 2007, the company has experienced a growth rate of 400 percent. Acquired in 2012 for more than $2 billion by Blackstone [http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/article/blackst..., Vivint was selected to the Forbes list for its growth (in both sales and hiring), the quality of its management team and its investors, product strength, margins, market size, and key strategic partnerships.

One metric never says it all. For the Most Promising list, Forbes strove for a holistic gauge of young, privately held companies, trying to pin down their trajectories by looking at a slew of variables. Over the course of six months, Forbes reviewed thousands of applications. Forbes turned to CB Insights, a Manhattan-based data research firm that specializes in assessing private companies, to refine the search. Their MOSAIC software scans 45,000 sources to measure a company's health. A new distribution deal, for example, marks a positive signal, while the loss of an executive is a negative. MOSAIC gathers those myriad signals into a final score that Forbes uses as an initial guide in producing the list. After verifying sales numbers, speaking with each company and debating their merits and blemishes, Forbes produces a final ranking.

To view the complete 2013 list of America's Most Promising Companies, visit www.forbes.com.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wow! SAFE Security is really making news lately. First, it was acquired late last year by ICV Partners, a New York-based investment firm focused on lower middle-market companies.

Then, it announced earlier this month that it had just bought about 24,000 alarm monitoring accounts from Orem, Utah-based Pinnacle Security—a summer-model company the select assets of which Protection 1 recently purchased.

Now, SAFE announced today that it’s entering the DIY home security market by launching a new division, SAFE@home, that “allows homeowners to self install a Honeywell wireless security system with professional monitoring.”

Here’s more from a news release from the San Ramon, Calif.-based company, which has operations in 44 states:
 

SAFE Security, one of the nation’s largest security alarm companies has launched a new division, SAFE@home. This new division will enable a consumer to self install a wireless security system at their home with ease. This DIY home alarm system will include professional UL certified Five Diamond monitoring by SAFE Security and will not require a phone line. The home security system can be controlled remotely by a smartphone or tablet via Honeywell’s Total Connect. The system is available across the continental US.

“With an increased demand in the residential security market for a self installed alarm system coupled with increased technology that allows for a wireless security system to be setup in minutes, SAFE@home is well positioned to be a leader in the DIY security space,” said Paul Sargenti, SAFE’s President and CEO. “We’ve partnered with Honeywell to provide a state of the art wireless security system and will accommodate Wi-Fi for IP alarm communications. This will allow our customers to take advantage of being able to self-install their wireless security system. By enabling our customers to self install, they will save money by not requiring an alarm company to install the alarm system.”

Customers can select from 3 complete packages and add on additional hardware to best fit their needs.

I’ve reached out to Sargenti to learn more about all these developments. Look for more about SAFE Security on our site in the near future.

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Monday, February 4, 2013

Summer-model Pinnacle Security is getting a fresh start after traditional-model home security giant Protection 1 recently purchased select assets from the company.

The deal has great potential, according to an alarm company owner who has married both models.

But it appears that problems from Pinnacle’s past continue to dog it. According to news reports, the Utah-based company now has to pay $525,000 as the result of a lawsuit filed by California’s Contra Costa County, charging Pinnacle with deceptive business practices.

It's not the first time Pinnacle has been sued over such issues.

Over the years the company has been accused in a number of states of deceptive sales practices. Last fall, for example, Pinnacle agreed to pay a $1 million fine in a settlement with the state of Illinois for such alleged violations as “slamming” customers and even hiring felons as sales reps.

According to a news report, the following information was released from the office of Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson. It said that the civil judgment against Pinnacle, in addition to the payment of penalties and costs:

 

o    Requires Pinnacle’s sales representatives to refrain from making false and misleading statements during the door- to-door sales presentations.
o    Prohibits Pinnacle sales representatives from telling consumers that they will get free or discounted products or services if they allow a Pinnacle sign to be placed in their yard.
o    Prohibits Pinnacle sales representatives from telling consumers that sales representatives are engaging in “seed marketing, advertising, marketing, or increasing Pinnacle’s visibility in the neighborhood”.
o    Requires that Pinnacle sales representatives comply with section 17500.3 of the Business and Professions Code by immediately verbally identifying themselves, who they work for, and what they are selling.
o    Requires that Pinnacle use contracts that comply with California’s Unruh Act and federal regulation Z pertaining to retail installment contracts by disclosing, among other things, the total price of the alarm monitoring service for the initial contract term of years.
o    Requires that Pinnacle use Spanish language contracts for customers to whom the sales presentation was made primarily in Spanish.
o    Requires that whenever a sale is made to a customer who already has monitoring equipment installed by another monitoring service provider, that Pinnacle shall not remove that customer’s existing monitoring equipment until such time as the three-day cancellation period (applicable to door-to-door residential sales) has expired.
o    Puts limits on the amount of contract termination fees that can be charged to customers.
o    Requires the payment of restitution to certain customers; and
o    Requires that Pinnacle adopt specified provisions to monitor the future conduct of their sales representatives.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sales of Pulse are up more than 6 percent and recurring revenue up more than 5 percent, The ADT Corp reported today as it released its results from its first quarter ending Dec. 28. The home security/home automation giant also said it added 257,000 new customers and has 6.4 million customer accounts.

When ADT on Sept. 28 became an independent, publicly traded company after spinning off from Tyco International, CEO Naren Gursahaney told me that it was not "a moonshot” for ADT’s residential penetration rate to rise from around the industry standard of about 20 percent to 40 percent.

Of course, it’s too soon to tell if ADT will succeed in that goal, but the company is performing well according to the report it released on Jan. 30. Here’s a synopsis from a Reuters story on the earnings results:
 

Home security services company ADT Corp reported a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday and announced a $600 million accelerated share repurchase.

The company, formerly a part of Tyco, said net earnings had risen 12.9 percent to $105 million, or 44 cents per share, from $93 million, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 43 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 1.8 percent to $809 million, with recurring revenue from existing customers accounting for 92 percent of the total and increasing 5.1 percent from a year earlier.

The Boca Raton, Florida-based company, which provides security monitoring services to homes and small businesses in North America, said it still expected a rise of 4.9 percent to 5.2 percent in recurring revenue in fiscal 2013.

Here’s also some of what ADT had to say in its report:

Naren Gursahaney, ADT’s Chief Executive Officer, said … “Looking ahead to the balance of the year we will continue to focus on our ultimate objective of creating long-term value for our shareholders by reinvesting in our business to drive profitable growth, and returning excess cash to our shareholders.”

Recurring revenue, which made up 92% of total revenue in the quarter, was up 5.1%. Recurring revenue growth was driven by a 4.7% increase in ending average revenue per customer, which rose to $39.27, and 0.5% net growth in ending customer accounts. Non-recurring revenue declined 25.3% as the company’s mix of newly installed systems continues to shift toward more ADT-owned systems, increasing deferred revenue and reducing current period installation revenue. Total revenue of $809 million increased 1.8%, compared to the first quarter of 2012. Attrition was flat sequentially at 13.8%. ADT added 257,000 new customers and closed the quarter with 6.4 million customer accounts.

EBITDA before special items was $417 million, 6.1% higher than the first quarter of the prior year, and EBITDA margin before special items was 51.5%, a 210 basis point improvement. The margin expansion was mainly due to the favorable impact from the mix shift to more ADT-owned systems and was also aided by cost control initiatives that helped to offset the expense impact of dis-synergies caused by the separation from the Tyco commercial business and Hurricane Sandy.

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Businesses v. Fire Sprinklers. That could be the headline of a story this week in the Chicago Tribune about a fire sprinkler requirement for businesses in the village of Westmont, Ill.

It appears businesses and the village are at odds over such basic fire protection, but they needn’t be if only Congress would stop stalling and pass the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, or FSIA. The act would provide tax incentives that make sprinklers more affordable.

The story says that the village requires businesses to install fire sprinklers but has put that safety requirement on hold because businesses say they can’t afford to add sprinklers. Here’s what the story had to say:
 

The village began a moratorium on the sprinkler requirement in 2010 for three years, citing that it had deterred businesses from locating in Westmont. The moratorium expires in spring and the board plans to discuss the issue at a meeting in February.

Trustee Ellen Emery said the moratorium was intended, in part, to allow property owners more time to become compliant. But many businesses have not, she said, adding that building owners, not lessees, should be responsible for installing the fire sprinkler systems.

Still, trustees said many landlords are requesting tenants install the systems.

"If a building is not up to code, a new business isn't going to want to invest their life savings into it," said Emery. "There have been many cases where businesses decided not to open up in town after learning they would have to pay for the installation of the sprinkler system."

Emery says a strip mall on the south end of town is almost completely vacant because the owner doesn't want to pay for the installation of a sprinkler system. Fire officials also told trustees that 65 businesses have not installed a mandatory wireless fire alarm system while 550 buildings have. Of those not in compliance, about 55 are in the downtown area, they said.

The fire code issue comes as the village is considering enacting a tax increment financing (TIF) district on the south end of the community and possibly in the downtown to help revitalize the areas.

A TIF is one answer that communities like Westmont could employ to resolve this issue. But that approach is piecemeal when compared to the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act.

After 100 people were killed in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I. in 2003, coalition of groups, including firefighters, fire sprinkler manufacturers and fire and life safety groups have been lobbying Congress to pass FSIA.

According to the latest version, introduced in the House of Representatives in 2011, the act would amend the Internal Revenue Code “to allow: (1) 100% expensing in a current taxable year of the cost of an automated fire sprinkler system, as defined by this Act; and (2) accelerated depreciation (i.e., a 15-year recovery period) of such an automated fire sprinkler system that is installed in a building where the floor of any occupiable story is greater than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.”

 

by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Since ADT spun off from Tyco International Sept. 28 and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the news about its performance has been upbeat. And earlier this week, according to news reports, Credit Suisse Group reaffirmed its outperform rating of the The ADT Corp. and raised its target price from $50 to $54. It cited ADT mergers and acquisitions as a factor.

Here’s more from Credit Suisse’s Jan. 14 assessment of ADT:
 

Some investors think they "missed" the chance to own ADT. We disagree, and see upside to the mid/high $50's over the next 12 months. TP raised to $54 (from $50). We think ADT's M&A spend will exceed their budgeted $150mn in 2013 and drive revenue and earnings growth above current market expectations. The fragmented security monitoring industry is filled with potential targets for ADT and given most industry competitors operate near identical business models, most M&A should offer significant cost synergies and earnings accretion. An additional half turn of EBITDA leverage to ADT's current targets would give ADT $700mn to spend on M&A; this could mean $175m in incremental EBITDA before synergies (10%+ accretive).

In trading yesterday, ADT closed at $47.25. Its 52-week range went from $35.38 to $47.50.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 9, 2013

For the third consecutive year, burglar alarm companies ranked first on the Better Business Bureau of Utah’s Top 10 list of the industries that generated the most complaints, according to a recent report by The Salt Lake Tribune.

There was a silver lining for burglar alarm companies in that unflattering ranking. Their resolution rate for the complaints increased—to 97 percent, according to the report.

Here’s more from the Jan. 4 story:
 

The Better Business Bureau of Utah has released its Top 10 list of the industries that generated the most complaints last year, with burglar alarm companies once again topping the chart.

The BBB said it received a total of 16,144 complaints in 2012 — down 5 percent from 2011 — and resolved nearly 77 percent of the cases, while the number of consumers accessing its reviews of businesses was up nearly 15 percent.

Among the industries on the BBB's Top 10 complaints list were computer, hardware, software and services.

… In 2012, for the third year in a row, burglar alarm companies drew the most complaints, with 1,825. Although the resolution rate for alarm companies improved, the number of complaints rose by more than 61 percent. Nearly 97 percent of the complaints were resolved.

Complaints against alarm companies usually involve sales issues, billing and contract renewal.

The second-highest number of complaints, 380, were logged against loan mortgage audits, or companies that promise to examine payments to make sure the amount is applied correctly.

Other industries that made the BBB’s list, in order of the number of complaints, were:

• Health and medical products, primarily those making promises about weight loss, with trial offers and hidden monthly fees

• Training program companies, such as firms offering instructions on how to start a business or make money on the Internet.

 

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by: Tess Nacelewicz - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A story about a home robbery over the holidays reported by a North Carolina news outlet on New Year’s Day caught my eye. That’s because it illustrates the potential costly drawbacks of relying on a self-monitored security system.

A Raleigh, N.C. couple lost $1,500 in cash and electronics and also their “peace of mind” after three thieves invaded their home while they were away for the holidays, according to WRAL.com. The report excitedly touts that the couple has video of the burglary, which they have posted on YouTube in hopes of catching the thieves.  But I can’t help thinking that if they had a security system that was professionally monitored 24/7 by a central station, the thieves could already have been caught and they wouldn’t have suffered the loss of their valuables and the terrible feeling of having their home violated.

Here are some more details from the WRAL.com report:
 

Matt Robinson installed eight cameras in different places around his home as a way to keep an eye on his dog.
The cameras can be accessed online or by using a smartphone, but Robinson said he and his wife had trouble pulling them up Saturday night while they were out of town for the holidays.
A relative went to their home to check things out and found the house had been burglarized.
"Three kicks is all it took" to break through the back door, Robinson said Tuesday.
He retrieved the video that recorded the burglary. It shows the three thieves casually walking around the house for nearly 15 minutes looking for valuables. One of them even used a knife to open a box.
"Imagine seeing your own house and people that should not be there going through your stuff. It is not a good feeling," Robinson said.
One of the thieves eventually noticed the video cameras and is seen in the video cutting the cables to at least one of them. Bleach also was poured over a box that records the video from the cameras, but it wasn't enough to erase the images of the burglary.
Robinson put the video on YouTube and has passed out fliers in his neighborhood, asking anyone who recognizes the people on the tape to call police.
The thieves stole about $1,500 in cash and electronics, he said, but they also took something on which he cannot put a dollar figure.
"It's very violating, unsettling, and you lose your peace of mind," he said. "That is hard to get back."
 

The burglary is also making national news on sites like The Huffington Post.

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