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Builder market to stay in the tank

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I've just posted January's Special Report on the state of the finance world for integrators and alarm dealers looking for loans. The verdict? Things aren't as bad as the mass media make things out to be, as long as you've got a tight, profitable business with sound metrics and management. Same as always. Should the economy fall into recession, causing interest rates to rise, then capital might get tight, but that hasn't happened yet and no one would tell me that was on the horizon. One section of the market that has been affected, however, is that portion of alarm dealers who rely on the new-build market, which is utterly and thoroughly in the tank. Lenders said any company that relies on the builder market for growth has always been a poor investment anyway, but now that company is really a no-go. With all that said, I think there was an undercurrent of sentiment going unsaid by those I interviewed that felt like: "Actually, we're going to be a bit more discriminating about to whom we lend money." But maybe I'm reading too much into their denials that it was business as usual.

Reminder: Move away from the lampshade

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tis the season for office holiday parties, and United Publications, publisher of Security Systems News, I'm happy to say, does it right. First of all, it's close by, next door in a nice seaside restaurant. It's always on a Tuesday night, so it's not taking up holiday weekend hours. It starts at 5 and lasts about two hours. And best of all: There's no dancing required, expected, or even allowed. Tis the season, as well, for office party news stories. Here's a funny NPR piece about a woman whose career was actually enhanced by jumping on stage at her office party to sing and dance to "Love Shack." And here's one from today's Globe with guidelines about an appropriate drink to order and the perfect song to request from the band.

Securitas Systems buys Securex

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Securitas Systems has strengthened its retail portfolio by acquiring Securex, a division of LP Innovations that focuses on retail security. This comes about three months after its acquisition of PEI. Here's my favorite part of what's a very short release: Securitas Systems has purchased the assets of Securex, a division of LP Innovations, Inc. The purchase price is between 5-6x EBITDA. This is a classic piece of seeming to give information without actually giving information. It's the same way they characterized their PEI deal, as a multiple of EBITDA. And maybe it's a sign they're buying healthy companies, who have solid positive EBITDAs. But a multiple of revenues or RMR would give us a much better idea of the size of the deal, obviously.

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McCoy exonerated

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Monday, December 17, 2007
A jury found Iowa state senator Matt McCoy not guilty of charges he attempted to extort $2,000 from Reid Shultz owner of Security Plus in Des Moines. According to the Des Moines Register story, Thomas Vasquez, the paid government informant and former salesman for Security Plus, was not considered the most reliable guy around. Two sources called him a "pathological liar" in testimony.

The ROI sell for cities and towns

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Monday, December 17, 2007
You know that ROI sell that everyone's harping on? Well, it works for municipalities, too.
As budgets tighten across the country, cities and towns increasingly are loathe to pay for graffiti clean up, as are local merchants. Check this story for a dose of Christmas spirt. Just as the local business district gears up for a big weekend of shopping, here come a bunch of idiots to make the place look extra uninviting. But your opportunity lies in this great quote: "This goes back to us being strongly in favor of cameras," Sedwick said. How much does it cost to clean up graffiti? How much does the camera system cost? Where does one cancel the other out? This insurance company sees the trade-off as being solidly in its favor. If you make the pitch to your local city/town council, logic says they'll see the trade-off as a positive one, too.

This is why analytics seem so attractive

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Sunday, December 16, 2007
Wondering why analytics seem like such a good idea? See this story. The big question is whether alarm events can programmed to produce small electronic charges.

Bosch to buy Extreme CCTV

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Friday, December 14, 2007
Wow. This just came over the wire. I'll have some more for you on the newswire: Boost for Security Systems division: Bosch plans acquisition of Extreme CCTV • Extreme CCTV is a technology leader in active infrared illuminators, demanding environment cameras and license plate capture systems • Publicly listed Extreme CCTV Inc. employs approximately 130 associates • Bosch is offering 5.00 Canadian dollars per share Stuttgart – Bosch is planning to acquire all shares of Extreme CCTV Inc., headquartered in Burnaby, Canada. With this acquisition, Bosch intends to boost its Security Systems division and extend its activities in video surveillance. Bosch is offering the company’s stockholders 5.00 Canadian dollars per share in cash. The stockholders of Extreme CCTV include private and institutional investors as well as the company management. The expected transaction volume is some 93 million Canadian dollars (approximately 62 million euros). The transaction is subject to approval by the authorities and is expected to close in February 2008. Extreme CCTV is a technologically leading manufacturer and supplier of active infrared illuminators for high performance imaging in dark conditions and when visibility is poor, as well as video surveillance products for use in all kinds of extreme environmental conditions including heat, cold, and darkness. Furthermore, its product range includes systems for license-plate capture. In 2006, the company and its 130 associates worldwide generated sales of some 27 million Canadian dollars (approximately 19 million euros). Extreme CCTV has locations in Burnaby (Canada), Newcastle (U.K.), Church Cookham (U.K.), and Barbados. The company has three well-known brands: Extreme, Forward Vision, and Derwent. “In acquiring Extreme CCTV, we want to extend our leading position in the fast growing video-surveillance market,” said Uwe Glock, president of the Bosch Security Systems division. “The company’s innovative technologies will expand our product portfolio and strengthen our presence in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K,” Glock said. Not a gigantic buy, but substantial, and another sign of the market's continuing consolidation. The big boys will eventually control much more of the market than they do now.

A helping hand during the holidays

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Friday, December 14, 2007
MMI, the activist hedge fund that wants Brink’s to spin off one of its divisions, sent a holiday-season missive offering its help to Monitor Group, the firm hired by Brink's in November to evaluate "various strategic options available to the company." In a letter to Monitor Group managing partners Steve Jennings and Bob Lurie, MMI’s Clay Lifflander says his company has spent four years “scrutinizing Brink’s chronic undervaluation and attempting to unlock the company’s significant intrinsic value through the encouragement of strategic alternatives.” He says Monitor would “benefit from our experience and insights on these issues and would appreciate the opportunity to communicate with your team directly.” Lifflander told me today that he's yet to hear back from Monitor, but it's a busy time of the year, and they've probably got to check with legal and Brink's too, so maybe next week. "One of the things I’ve heard about Monitor is that they’re very independent. If they really are independent then they’ll want all touch points possible included in their deliberation…that leads me to think that they might want to talk,” he said. To read the letter, check out MMI’s Dec. 12 SEC filing. On a different topic, I posted a blog recently about MMI obtaining a stake in another home security giant, Protection One. In that I noted that MMI only owned about 80,000 shares of P1, and even though that's only about .32 percent of shares outstanding, it still earned MCM (which owns MMI) a spot (#10) on the Yahoo Finance list of P1’s top ten “Institutional Holders.” "Not any more," Lifflander said today. Lifflander pointed out to me that the recent SEC filing represented MMI's position as of September. Since that time, Lifflander said he's sold a bunch of P1 stock, and now only owns about $500,000 in P1 stock. He said he really likes P1 and thinks highly of Protection One's CEO Richard Ginsburg, but decided "we need to concentrate on Brink's right now."

Go outside and run around

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
This industry could learn a little something from my mother, whose answer to any complaint I had as a kid was, “Go outside and run around, you’ll feel better.” And if you were looking for something fun to do, her advice was: “Go outside and run around.” I’m reminded of this because of this notice from SIA that just popped into my inbox. It’s about an ISC West event, a motorcycle/car ride to benefit education for first responders. Now, SIA’s a great organization and I’m all behind any event that supports education. I can even imagine having fun riding a motorcycle through the Nevada mountains. That said, I would be so very happy if this industry could ever hold an outdoor event where people actually got some exercise. How about a road race? A walk? Some skiing? A hike through those beautiful Nevada mountains? Anyone? Just don’t tell me that golf is exercise (an exercise in frustration maybe)

What's the real story on McCoy?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Is it a case of a state senator extorting an alarm company? or an attorney showboating for Alberto Gonzalez? Or a little of both? The trial of Iowa state senator Matt McCoy is expected to resume today after being postponed because of snow yesterday. The Feds say McCoy—who was nabbed by a government informant—extorted $2,000 from Reid Shultz, owner of alarm company Security Plus. This particular story doesn’t mention it, but Iowa Dems say the indictment is politically motivated. Here’s our October story with background. You see, this indictment was handed down in March, right around the time Alberto Gonzalez was engaged in a firing-fest, taking down U.S. attorneys who didn’t indict enough Democrats in their states. Iowa Democrats say that this is a case of one Iowa U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, a social conservative with his own political aspirations—showing his partisan toughness for Gonzalez to see. They say he used questionable methods to collect evidence. They’re standing behind McCoy in this case. McCoy’s had trouble with conservative colleagues before. McCoy is an openly gay man who had his sexual orientation revealed by a Republican colleague in 2003.

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