Monday, April 16, 2012

ComDev Learns from its History

Current COM DEV CEO Mike Pley.
It's hard to believe that satellite manufacturer COM DEV International inhabits the same universe as the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), which last week announced 23 layoffs as per the April 11th, 2012 Wall Street Journal Marketwatch press release "Unhealthy Choices: Over 1500 Public Service Professionals Receive Notices in Second Wave of Government Cuts".

It also seems odd that the company isn't going down the same path as MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), which announced layoffs and "ongoing restructuring" about the same time as the CSA cutbacks were implemented as outlined in the April 9th, 2012 Canadian Press articles "Canada's federal budget pinch felt even in outer space" and the earlier March 30th, 2012 article "MDA raises concerns about future of RADARSAT Constellation Mission".

But Cambridge based COM DEV is special, at least for this fiscal quarter.

According to the April 13th, 2012 Space News article "COM DEV Foresees ‘Surge’ in Telecom Satellite Orders," a spokesperson for the company said that "while a decrease in the Canadian Space Agency’s budget will not be good news, Com Dev does relatively little business with the Canadian government and will not suffer much."

The comment was made during the April 12th, 2012 conference call with investors focused on the company’s performance for the three months ending Jan. 31. According to the article, civil government work represents just 33 percent of the firms total backlog and only a relatively small amount of that is "with the Canadian government."

According to the article, COM DEV reported "lower revenue and orders, but higher profit, for the three months ending on Jan. 31 compared with last year and said there are signs the commercial satellite telecommunications market is regaining momentum."

Even better was the follow-on April 16th, 2012 Canadian Newswire announcement "COM DEV wins commercial contract" which highlighted a million dollar COM DEV win in "the emerging growth market of high throughput satellites."

Ex-COM DEV CEO John Keating.
All of which has just got to be good news for CEO Mike Pley, who replaced long-term CEO John Keating in September 2010 (as outlined in the September 1st, 2010 Globe and Mail story "Com Dev replaces CEO") and then almost immediately slashed the company workforce by 5% (as outlined in the September 3rd, 2010 Ottawa Business Journal article "Com Dev slashes jobs as part of plan to return to profitability").

Back in early 2010, ex-CEO Keating was telling anyone who would listen that the commercial side of the COM DEV ledger was sound, but revenue shortfalls were caused by delays in funding the RADARSAT Constellation program and the lack of long-term CSA funding and planning.

This was discussed in my June 10th, 2010 post "COMDEV Stock Down: Long Term Space Plan Blamed!" and it's interesting to note that, although Keating was eventually fired for those opinions, his successor has addressed many of them and the company is far stronger for it.

MDA, as the prime contractor for the RADARSAT Constellation program, is presently going through many of the same problems that COM DEV addressed in the 2010/11 period. MDA should note these similarities and govern itself accordingly.

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