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Good news for those in builder market?

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here's a story about a National Association of Home Builders study that shows that builders' confidence is increasing, and that we may have finally seen the bottom of the housing crisis.
The NAHB-Wells Fargo index rose to 16 in May from 14 in April on a scale of zero to 100. It's the highest since the 17 recorded in September. The index got as low as 6 in January. Before the current housing meltdown, the index had never gotten below 20 in its 24-year history. It peaked at 72 nearly four years ago.
The industry trade group received 733 responses to its survey in May. The story says that the index matched economists' expectations. According to John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros of RDQ Economics.
"This is one more piece of data that suggests the recession's grip in the economy is beginning to loosen."
The story says that tomorrow the Commerce Department releases its estimates for housing starts and building permits in April.
Over time, the NAHB index and housing starts are highly correlated. Starts are down 48% in the past year and down 72% from the peak. Economists are forecasting a slight increase in starts to a 519,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate from 510,000 in March.

SafetyCare news: Extraordinary Caregivers Award, Gold Eagle is new partner

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Monday, May 18, 2009
SafetyCare announced on Thursday that Denver-based Gold Eagle Systems, a senior care specialist company, had joined the ranks of the SafetyCare Partner Program and would begin offering PERS systems to its customers in Denver and the Front Range. The partnership will allow both companies to maximize their services and enhance senior safety in Colorado, with Gold Eagle offering its strong ties to the local senior community and its expertise in PERS installation and SafetyCare offering its certified EMT-staffed national response center. Information on becoming a SafetyCare Authorized Partner can be found at SafetyCare's website. SafetyCare on May 14, also sent out a call for nominations for the third annual Jack and Rosemary Gulati SafetyCare Awards. The awards are given to caregivers in three categories--Caregiver of the Year in a Facility/Institutional Environment, Caregiver of the Year in Home Health Care, and Emergency Medical Technician of the Year. The national award is open to professionals who have shown dedication to their profession, an extreme level of compassion or who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need. Entrants must be from the U.S. and its territories, and the deadline for nominations is July 31. Winners will be honored at a special awards ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 20 at a location yet-to-be-decided. For more information, visit SafetyCare's site.

Security firms make Red Herring 100

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Monday, May 18, 2009
Continuing a theme that's flowering here on the blog, there's a bit of evidence that "high technology" is starting to recognize that physical security exists. For example, the Red Herring 100 is a list of privately held technology companies that are identified as potentially "disruptive," etc., and therefore bear watching. Last year, the list included exactly zero physical-security-oriented companies, despite there being a category labeled "security/defense." For high-tech types, "security" only means IT security: email, network, what they call access control, etc. (Also, please note that in the two events I'm looking at, the keynote speakers for the Red Herring 100 event include just one woman, so IT types are apparently as homogeneous as physical security types - I thought they were progressive!) This year, though, there's actually a nod to physical security. For example, Pivot3 made the list, and they focus their "serverless computing" pretty directly at the security surveillance market. And Vumii made it, too. They actually manufacture cameras! Cameras as high technology - who knew? So, two of the eight "security & defense" companies (they added an ampersand and took out the slash this year) are actually physical-security-related. I take that to be a good sign. High-tech companies and start-ups eyeing security might in the short run make for a glut of manufacturers and suppliers in the space, but in the long-run will make the technology move forward faster and offer better options for integrators to bring to their customers.

Pelco continues to open up

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Monday, May 18, 2009
Sometimes it's the little things that speak volumes. While Pelco has continuously been talking about opening up its architecture and product line, it's one thing to "integrate" with other companies' products, it's another thing to open up what was previously a closed, proprietary system. So, I read with some interest this release (warning: that's a pdf download from an ftp server - that's how they post all their press releases) about lifting certification requirements on Pelco Endura encoders. See, before, if you wanted to use Endura encoders, you had to have an Endura system from front to back. Now you can just use the encoders, which work really well with the Pelco PTZs and are thus attractive for taking the large Pelco analog install base and making it digital, as a piece of the system. Seems like an obvious move to me (I've never understood why you'd tell someone you can't buy something from you, for whatever reason), but it's just another sign of the industry moving from proprietary systems to best-of-breed solutions.

Keith Ladd honored

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Saturday, May 16, 2009
At its annual conference, held yesterday, the Pennsylvania Burglar & Fire Alarm Association honored Keith Ladd posthumously with an honorary membership. Ladd, founder of The Protection Bureau and a founding member of the PBFAA, died in February. At the meeting, it was announced that the PBFAA President's Award had been renamed the Keith M. Ladd Award. Ladd's wife, Mary Ladd, daughter, Karen Ladd Baker, and his son, J. Matthew Ladd, attended the event and were presented with a plaque and a brass bell. The bell is in appreciation for Ladd's work in founding the PBFAA newsletter, "The Bellringer."

20 under 40 nominations

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Friday, May 15, 2009
Hey loyal blog readers, you get first crack at the 20 under 40 nominations. Check it out here.

Mace numbers

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Friday, May 15, 2009
There's all kinds of 1Q numbers to talk about right now, and most of them reflect a 1Q that was difficult for the industry. Here's what Mace has to say. You'll note that they begin the release with "highlights" from the quarter, which is always a sign that the numbers don't look all that great. But they're not alone with that. Here are some thoughts:
Dennis Raefield, CEO and President of Mace, stated, "I am excited about the future of Mace. We are on track with our growth strategy. Even though our 2009 first quarter sales were soft due to the continuing global economic crisis, we have achieved our cost-cutting goals and have reduced Mace's quarter over quarter losses by improving our gross margin and reducing the Company's overhead.
One "good" thing about the disastrous 1Q worldwide? It's an out for just about any CEO who has to report bad numbers (just as it's an out for any bad salesperson who doesn't hit a goal, etc. - it can make company and talent evaluation difficult for that reason. Is it the economy? Or is it the sales team/products?). Considering Mace is still in the process of a major reorganization, it's difficult to have grounds for disagreeing with the CEO's evaluation.
"We have also improved our Security Division's sales department, product offerings and customer service. We have completed a significant step in our security-oriented growth strategy by acquiring a first class wholesale central monitoring station, which is the platform to build our next generation of services. We plan to roll out new services during both the second and third quarters of 2009. I hope to see continued improvement as we start to see growth rebound in the security sector. I am also pleased to announce that we continue to make progress in selling our remaining car washes, and we are very pleased with the direction of our Digital Media Marketing segment," Mr. Raefield concluded.
I've got some inside dope on what some of those inside services might be. For instance, what if the DVR you bought automatically called home to the Mace central station and self-configured for video monitoring? That would be kind of sweet, right? That will probably happen. A camera company owning a central station could make for some very interesting developments. So, here are the actual numbers:
Total revenues for the first quarter ended March 31, 2009 were $8.6 million, as compared to $12.3 million for the same period in 2008. The decrease in overall revenues during the first quarter of 2009 was primarily due to a decrease in revenues from Mace's Digital Media Marketing segment because of management's decision to discontinue the marketing efforts of its online marketing division, PromoPath, in June 2008. There was also a reduction in sales in Mace's Security and Car Wash segments.
That's almost 30 percent down, year to year. Hard to spin that in a good light.
Loss from continuing operations for the first quarter of 2009 was approximately ($1.7) million, or ($0.10) per share, compared to a loss from continuing operations of ($2.2) million, or ($0.13) per share, for the first quarter of 2008. The reduction in loss from continuing operations was partially due to a reduction in selling, general and administrative ("SG&A") expenses from $5.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2008 to $3.7 million in the same period in 2009, a decrease of approximately $1.3 million, or 26%. The SG&A expense savings were realized from a reduction in costs with the consolidation of our security division's Ft. Lauderdale, Florida surveillance equipment warehouse operations into our Farmers Branch, Texas facility, with an expense reduction of approximately $140,000, as well as overhead reductions within our Digital Media Marketing segment. SG&A expenses of our Digital Media Marketing segment decreased from $1.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2008 to $708,000 in the three months ended March 31, 2009. In addition to these cost savings measures, we also noted a reduction in non-cash compensation expense from continuing operations from approximately $253,600 in the three months ended March 31, 2008 to $50,000 in the three months ended March 31, 2009.
But there's the good spin right there. Despite bringing in way less revenue, they still lost less money. They've still got cash on hand, but at some point the red ink has to stop.
The Company's net book value was $41.6 million, or $2.55 per share, at March 31, 2009. In addition, Mace had $53.1 million in total assets, including $8.5 million of cash and short-term investments, at March 31, 2009.
So, with a 1Q loss from continuing operations of $1.7 million, and $8.5 million on hand, the company would only have about a five quarters of cash if they burn at the current rate. I don't expect that to happen, but that shows you the impetus Raefield and company will be under to turn things around.

CSAA five Diamond Certs rolling in

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Friday, May 15, 2009
It's that time of year again. All the centrals out there with the wherewithal to prove they've completed the necessary training are reporting their CSAA Five Diamond Central Station Certification has been renewed. Just today I received word that Monitronics International in Dallas, and RFI Security in San Jose, Calif. have received their renewal certs from the CSAA. The CSAA’s Five Diamond Certification program is designed to create standards of excellence for the industry. In order for a central station to earn its Five Diamond Certification, all its operators must undergo the online training course and pass a test, demonstrating proficiency in: alarm verification (reduction of false alarms); communications with public service answering points such as 911; electronic communications equipment; the codes and practices of such standards organizations as Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual, and the National Fire Protection Association; the handling of a wide scenario of emergency preparedness situations. And for those central in Canada or South America who speak French or Spanish, the training, as I noted in an earlier post, is now available in multiple languages with the cooperation of CANASA and ALAS. According to the CSAA, there are over 2,700 central stations in the United States, and of this group fewer than 100 (less than 3%) central stations have undergone the process and achieved certification. Keep up the good work guys!

Henry Bros. financials for 1Q

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Thursday, May 14, 2009
First quarter numbers are coming in throughout the industry (I'll have Mace later). Here's how one of our few public integrators did: Eh.
Henry Bros. Electronics, Inc. Reports First Quarter 2009 Results FAIR LAWN, N.J., May 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Henry Bros. Electronics, Inc. (NASDAQ:HBE) , a turnkey provider of technology-based integrated electronic security solutions, today announced results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2009. The Company reported revenue of $15.3 million for the first quarter of 2009, representing a 3.8% decrease over revenue of $15.9 million for the same period a year ago. The slight decrease in revenue in the recent first quarter is primarily due the winding down of work completed on contracts for several large public agencies in the New York Metropolitan area, as well as a decline in revenue from the Company's Arizona and California operations. Partially offsetting these declines was an increase in revenue from the Company's Colorado and Virginia operations and revenue recorded under the Tactical Video Capture System ("TVCS") contract with L-3 Communications.
So, down, but not badly down, even in a brutal quarter that crushed any number of businesses. But this makes sense to me, considering that these are primarily long-term jobs that wouldn't just go away because the economy's in the tank. The effects of that 1Q will probably be felt late this year, early next year, when the pipeline is dry because nothing new was generated (that's just a guess, obviously).
The Company reported net income of $166,122 or $0.03 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended March 31, 2009, compared to net income of $283,957, or $0.05 per diluted share, in the comparable period of 2008. The Company's decrease in net income is principally the result of higher personnel related costs as part of a strategic growth initiative to increase the sales force by 62%. This initiative was implemented in order to take advantage of an anticipated increase in security spending related to public projects and the expansion of the Company's footprint into Houston, Texas and Grand Junction, Colorado.
Earning $166,000 on $15.3 million in sales is living dangerously. That's roughly a net margin of 1.1 percent. Thin.
The Company's backlog as of March 31, 2009 was $20,133,794, compared to $22,404,437 at March 31, 2008. The aforementioned work completed on several large public agency jobs in the New Jersey / New York area during the year ended December 31, 2008 is the primary factor in the decline in the backlog, partially offset by the L-3 Contract bookings.
The backlog's down, but not overwhelmingly so. That L-3 deal is big, obviously.
Jim Henry, CEO of Henry Bros. Electronics, commented, "While the revenue and net income that we generated during the first quarter was down slightly from last year's comparable period, bookings were in line with the prior year's quarter of $11.7 million and the proposal dollar volume doubled in the first quarter of 2009 versus the prior year. In addition, we have undertaken several reinvestment initiatives in the last several months including the expansion of our geographic footprint, an increase in sales staff, and the introduction of new products and services. Our management team and Board take pride in our ability to effectively anticipate and react accordingly to changes. This was true before the current recession when we curtailed spending and increased system efficiencies, and is true now as we increase staff to prepare for the anticipated project growth in our industry."
Well, if you invest in increasing your sales staff by almost 70 percent, I hope the bookings are at least flat and the proposals are almost doubled. Otherwise, you've just increased your people spend without getting anything in return. I'm not sure that's a good sign, even with the bad 1Q.
Henry continued, "As the new administration prepares to increase spending in areas in which our company has cultivated a strong operational expertise, we have worked to ensure that we have the right regional teams in place to effectively compete for these large infrastructure projects. This increased push to capture a significant number of these jobs is against the backdrop of the very successful management of our TVCS project, which began in October 2008. We strongly believe that our continuing work with several large municipalities and government organizations, coupled with our strong performance with the TVCS project, puts us in a very good position to increase our capture rate of projects related to the integrated security needs of the government as they look to improve our nation's infrastructure. For these reasons we are reiterating our guidance for a 6% operating margin on consolidated revenue of $80 million in 2009".
That operating margin seems awful low to be sustainably profitable. I'm assuming that's taking into account the investments in people and geography and 2010 will be aiming higher.

Guy gets photo taken while trying to steal home camera

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Here's a news story out of Bakersfield, Calif. about a guy who tries to steal a home security camera, and guess what? Can you say doofus? Surprise, surprise, surprise. They get a photo of him and his car! OK, this guy's audacity and stupidity is staggering, but the story is actually pretty scary. The woman said that she and her husband were on alert because they'd previously noticed a security camera had been turned upside down, and they'd been followed home a few days before. A Bakersfield cop said that the theft of home security cameras is not unusual. And you'll never guess what he said these thieves do with the cameras...he said they like to install them in their own homes. Here's the story, with accompanying video.

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