Leading Lights 2019 Finalists: Company of the Year (Public)

Ray Le Maistre
5/6/2019
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To even get to the shortlist in the Company of the Year (Public) category of the Leading Lights awards is very tough, because it involves ticking a lot of important boxes and, as any listed company will know, everything's out in the open.

So congratulations are in order for the four companies that are competing for the trophy that will be awarded to "the publicly listed firm that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud and makes employees happy."

Those companies are:

The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner, which will be held at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, later today (Monday, May 6) on the eve of the Big 5G Event. Find out about how to book a table and attend the awards dinner by clicking on this link.

Here's a look at the companies shortlisted in the Company of the Year (Public) category, keeping in mind that the timeframe for this year's Leading Lights entries was from March 1, 2018, until the entries were submitted (up to the final deadline of March 29 this year), so share price gains and movements are pertinent to that period only.

Allot
Allot is well known, and built its reputation on being one of the leaders in deep packet inspection (DPI) and analytics, but in recent years it has diversified its focus and portfolio to encompass cybersecurity, and that move is paying off.

The specialist vendor has developed a platform, dubbed Allot Secure, that enables communications service providers (CSPs) to offer security services to their customers and that, as Allot noted in its submission, has "already been proven to introduce new revenue streams, increase ARPU and strengthen brand loyalty" for its CSP customers.

That development helped Allot to generate revenues of $95.8 million in 2018, up 17% year-on-year, improve its gross margins and move closer to an operating profit. It is anticipating further revenue growth this year.

The company's share price gained 42% in value during the Leading Lights entry period.

Boingo Wireless
As Boingo Wireless noted in its Leading Lights entry, 2018 was its most successful year ever. It generated record revenues of $250.8 million, representing year-on-year growth of 22.7%, and boosted its annual adjusted EBITDA by 33% to $91.8 million. That hike in revenues was fuelled by: A strong year for its WiFi offload business following an expanded Passpoint agreement with AT&T; improving distributed antenna system (DAS)-related revenues; and expanded business in the military and multifamily segments.

The company's strategy is to acquire long-term wireless rights at large venues, build networks at those venues, and then "monetize those networks via carrier fees, advertising and more." An example of its successful strategic execution in the past year was its selection by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York to design, build and operate wireless services for the Long Island Rail Road Atlantic Branch and Grand Central Terminal East Side Access, the largest single deal in Boingo's history. In addition, it struck 102 contracts with Tier 1 operators in 2018, up from 43 in 2017.

Boingo's share price lost 18% in value during the Leading Lights entry period.

Ciena
This year's entry from Ciena was notable in a number of ways, one of which was its unbridled confidence and interesting self-analysis: "It's an exciting time to be Ciena" brought a smile to our faces.

But it has reason to be in high spirits. While some of its rivals have suffered tougher times, Ciena's strategic moves of the past few years have been paying off, with faster-than-market growth, market share gains and dramatic stock gains.

It has used its financial muscle to make strategic acquisitions, with deals to buy inventory management specialist DonRiver and IP network optimization and analytics specialist Packet Design adding to its software portfolio. Ciena noted that those acquisitions were targeted to "help customers address scaling and automation challenges created by digital disruptions."

In terms of its traditional optical technology stronghold, Ciena is always keen to point out the benefits of its in-house development of WaveLogic Ai, the programmable coherent technology that has given it a strong position in 400G and, more recently, in 800G.

Its most recent financials show that Ciena is, just now, thriving. For the fiscal first quarter that ended January 31, the company generated revenues of $778.5 million, up 20.5% year-on-year, and reported an adjusted net profit of $52.8 million, more than twice the profit from the same quarter a year earlier.

Ciena's share price gained 58% in value during the Leading Lights entry period: It currently has a market capitalization of more than $6 billion.

Corning
As one of the leading suppliers of optical fiber to the telecom and other industrial sectors, Corning is reaping the benefits of data center expansion and 5G strategies that, ultimately, will require dense fiber-based access networks to fulfill the promises of the next-generation technology.

But it's not sitting on its laurels: It continues to innovate and seek new opportunities. For example, in March 2018 it introduced RocketRibbon, an extreme-density cable that allows network operators to quickly install more capacity in the same duct space, an increasingly important consideration given the forecasts of data and video traffic growth.

The company has also added to its portfolio with the strategic acquisition of the Communication Markets Division from 3M for $900 million, a deal that closed in June 2018.

And in its submission, Corning highlighted its green credentials and its human resources initiatives: In 2018 the company announced that it had reduced the energy intensity in its global fiber and cable manufacturing facilities by 50%; and it achieved 100% gender pay parity for its staff based in the US, with plans to identify and close such pay gaps in its other operations around the world.

Its Optical Communications business reported revenues of nearly $4.2 billion in 2018, up 18% year-on-year, and grew its optical net profit by 30% to $777 million.

Corning's share price gained more than 17% in value during the Leading Lights entry period.

Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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