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Kalkhoven to Depart JDS Uniphase

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/18/2000

Kevin Kalkhoven, the optical networking visionary who lead JDS Uniphase Corp. (http://www.jdsunph.com from $20 million to $2 billion in revenue, Nasdaq: JDSU) has quit the company. Jozef Straus, former president and COO, will step into his shoes by the end of this year.

Citing a desire for personal change and less stress, Kalkhoven was upbeat in a statement to shareholders early Thursday morning. "There's never a good time to retire or leave," he said. "And I'm not really leaving. I plan to continue as a strategic advisor to Jozef [Straus]. This is the right move for me. And it's right for the company."

Still, the news appeared to have a negative affect on JDS Uniphase's stock price today. It had dropped 3.25 points to 89 ½ by mid-day trading. And E-Tek Dynamics Inc. (http://www.e-tek.com, Nasdaq: ETEK), the component supplier that JDS Uniphase is in the process of acquiring, also saw its shares fall by 1 ¾ to 189 9/16.

Some shareholders and analysts expressed concern that Kalkhoven's decision reflects frustration with the slow progress of JDS Uniphase's proposed merger with E-Tek Dynamics Inc. Kalkhoven denied this, saying the merger is proceeding as planned, with investigations now underway by the U.S. Department of Justice. Still, it's clear the DoJ has some tough issues to consider about the proposed merger (see JDSU and E-TEK: The Omens Are Good ).

Another widespread concern is that the company, sans the dynamic Kalkhoven, may not be able to get its act together fast enough to meet its financial goals. These include multiplying manufacturing capacity by a factor of 4, and realizing revenue growth of 80 percent for the year.

These concerns seem well-founded: Kalkhoven had presided over a year of astronomical growth, in which the company spent more than $18 billion to acquire a range of component suppliers, starting with the merger of JDS Fitel Inc. in July 1999, a $15 billion transaction. Other significant purchases have included Optical Coating Laboratory Inc. http://www.ocli.com, Nasdaq: OCLI) in February for about $3 billion, and the purchase of Cronos Integrated Microsystems Inc. http://www.memsrus.com in April for $750 million. The value of other JDS Uniphase buys, such as the purchase of China's Fujian Casix Laser Inc. last month, haven't been disclosed.

Getting all of these properties coordinated under one umbrella is an enormous challenge.

But confidence in Jozef Straus seems high. "Remember that when JDS Fitel and Uniphase merged, they were roughly equivalent in size and financials," says David Wong, an analyst with Paine Webber http://www.painewebber.com. That speaks to Straus' capabilities, he says. Further, he points out that Straus has lead JDS Uniphase with Kalkhoven since the merger. "There's nothing the least bit negative about this announcement," he says. Other analysts concur. Canada's finance company CIBC http://www.cibc.com issued the following statement today: "We are reiterating our Strong Buy rating on the shares of ... JDS Uniphase following the surprise announcement... Straus has demonstrated no less a knack for building a successful optical empire. Notably, at the time of the JDS Fitel/Uniphase merger, both companies had grown to very similar run rates." -- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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