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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.

Churches search for security partners

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
In a time of tragedy, it might feel unseemly to talk about business opportunity, but churches are crying out for security help following this week's shootings. This is an opportunity to reach out to your local community leaders and talk about the real benefits that security technology can offer.
Note that in the article I'm linking to here, almost all the discussion is about hiring guards. Make sure you're a part of the discussion, too. It's in your self-interest, sure. But all of us know that the security industry can offer very real benefits that both supplement and go beyond what guards can do to protect people. Now is the time to reach out - to your local papers, your local places of worship, your local community gathering places.

Hedge fund hearts security

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Guess MMI likes the security industry. MMI is one of the activist hedge funds that’s been pestering The Brink’s Company to sell one of its divisions for months. Now it’s acquired “a small stake in Protection One” according to this story from Barron's. (Check out the last line in the “Activist Spotlight” section.) Used to be that P1 was almost like a privately held company with Quadrangle owning almost all of its shares. That’s changed since the merger with IASG: Quadrangle is still the largest stockholder, but its share is now about 23 percent according to Yahoo Finance. According to its most recent SEC filing on holdings, MMI (which is part of MCM Capital Management) owns about 80,000 shares of P1. That’s only about .32 percent of shares outstanding, but it still earns MCM a spot (#10) on the Yahoo Finance list of P1’s top ten “Institutional Holders.”

Mystery integrators dislike production builders

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Very close to a good story by Jason Knott in CE Pro today. As the new-build market has fallen apart and lies in shambles, a number of integrators and alarm guys who depended on that market for new business are struggling. Knott does a nice enterprise story by wondering if that isn't a good thing in the long run, citing integrators who've had bad experiences with program builders and other who don't like the margins in the new build market. That's actually confirmation of what I found in looking into the financial markets for a special report that will land in January. Gail Scannell at U.S. Bank told me that with "that whole builder segment, it's always been tough for them to do that profitably. That's always something that we have kept an eye on: what percent of new revenues is associated with builder programs." However, I'm disappointed that Knott didn't get a single integrator on the record with a single gripe. I can understand not wanting to attribute the phrase, "They're all scum bags," but couldn't he get a single integrator to talk on the record about why he or she prefers the retrofit market? And this paragraph is troubling: As one integrator described it: “Whenever I get frustrated dealing with large builders, I remember that most of the guys I deal with at these companies don’t even have high school educations. So, you can’t present them with logical solutions and expect them to understand.” That's mudslinging, and not the sort of situation I would use to protect a source. If somone wants to disparage an entire industry, he should have the balls to attach his name to it. I think Jason is a good reporter and I like that Jason offers the caveat wondering if that's "sour grapes," but I think not finding a quotable source for this story was a bad decision.

How do you integrate a "Pain Beam"?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
In one of those stories that would seem like an April Fool's prank if it wasn't so easy to believe, Wired has a story today about the new "pain beam," which uses microwaves to zap people and cause their flesh to scream out with burning pain. They're talking about using it on the battlefield, to quell riots, and, you know, for residential home security. Check the story's lead: Burglars break into an apartment, hoping to pick up some expensive electronics or jewelry. But they're out again, empty-handed, within seconds, howling with pain and surprise. They've been driven back by waves of intolerable heat: Entering the apartment is like stepping into a furnace. It's the Active Denial System, or ADS, at work, the ultimate in home protection ... among other uses. Yeah, well, better hope your teenager doesn't try to sneak into the house in the middle of the night. He'd get some surprise! And just think what happens when you key in the wrong passcode! Yizz-ow! Here's how Raytheon sees using it in commercial/industrial settings: In one implementation, beam projectors are "located on the ceiling, at an angle, behind wall panels," and a series of metallic reflectors, also concealed, ensure that the beam covers the whole room. "In some embodiments, the energy may be directed to protect an item at one or more particular locations," the patent reads. "In these embodiments, systems may be used to guard a valuable item such as jewelry, weapons, or works or art. Luckily, these things still cost millions of dollars. I'm not sure I'm ready for residential pain beams.

Securing athletes at home and elsewhere

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Monday, December 10, 2007
Here’s a Denver Post story about the Bronco’s security director, Dave Abrams. The Broncos hired Abrams after the murder last January of player Darrent Williams. The Broncos decision to hire Abrams to watch out for players and advise them on everything from home security to cyber security, has received increased media attention since the death last month of Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor in a home invasion.

Giuliani's security ties become campaign fodder

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Monday, December 10, 2007
Rudy Giuliani's security consulting firm has come under some questioning from the fourth estate recently. And he only fanned the flames by stepping down from heading the operation. It will be interesting to see how Rudy balances his strong security background with the fact that many Americans know very little about high-technology security and might not necessarily like the security industry's heavy investments in the Middle East and abilities with digital video. Check this bit from the Washington Post: But many of the firm's clients have never been listed on its Web site or identified publicly by associates, and two of the most controversial arrangements among them surfaced only in recent weeks. One involved a 2005 agreement to provide security advice to the government of Qatar. The second stemmed from a deal to assist a partnership proposing a Southeast Asian gambling venture. Among the partners were relatives of a Hong Kong billionaire who has ties to the government of North Korea's Kim Jong Il and has been linked to international organized crime, according to a Chicago Tribune report. Um, yeah, people (especially foreign governments) sometimes kind of like to keep their security plans secret. It's more than likely that Rudy has some other ties to foreign governments and giant corporations that might not necessarily be flattering for a presidential candidate.

Linear-IEI deal goes final

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Sunday, December 9, 2007
I don't have a link to a release, as it was only emailed to me via Word file and I can't find anything official on the web, but Linear has now confirmed that the deal agreed to in May to acquire International Electronics, known as IEI, has been consummated. However, the release doesn't indicate whether the initial financial terms remained the same. Anyhoo, here's the relevant piece of the release, if you're interested: The Home Technology Group of Nortek, Inc., a group of home and commercial convenience and security electronics companies lead by Linear LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nortek, has made a move to significantly strengthen its presence in the access control industry with the purchase of International Electronics, Inc. IEI, headquartered in Canton (Boston area), MA. IEI has been in the security and controlled access systems business for over 30 years. The two companies have very much in common with their line offerings but very little actual product overlap. The IEI line ranges from its Door-Gard stand-alone and entry-level access control products to its flagship product, eMerge, a browser managed integrated security management system. Linear has traditionally been in access control for perimeter security, including telephone and gate entry. Linear Chairman Grant D. Rummell noted the opportunity for synergy arising from the complementary Linear and IEI product lines. “IEI is a market leader in access control stand alone keypads, locksets, and systems access control products and this will greatly broaden the over-all Linear offering,” he said. “At the same time,” Rummell pointed out, “IEI’s experience and innovation in the areas of access control software adds substantially to our systems depth.” IEI President and CEO John Waldstein stated: “We look forward to the added market presence the association with Linear affords us and the opportunity for growth it provides. Being part of a strong access control and security industry leader allows us to continue to broaden our access control offerings as well as continuing to assure our commitment to excellence in service and support.” Plans call for IEI to continue at its Canton, MA, facility and to maintain and expand the IEI brands. Don't they know that all we care about is what they paid for IEI?

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