Optical components

IPO Alert: Fabrinet

Fabrinet Co. Ltd. (NYSE:FN) , a manufacturing company that's capitalized on the outsourcing trend in optical components, filed a long-awaited S-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday.

Underwriters for the IPO include leaders Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG , along with ABN AMRO , Cowen and Co. , and Thomas Weisel Partners . Details such as the number of shares being offered aren't available yet.

Fabrinet is a foundry, a factory-for-hire that caters to the optical components manufacturers. A well known name in photonics circles, Fabrinet started big and got bigger fast, and it's even profitable.

For the year ended June 30, Fabrinet reported revenues of $496 million and net income of $49.7 million, or $1.60 per share. In fact, Fabrinet's SEC filing says it's been profitable since at least 2003.

Table 1: Fabrinet's Tale of the Tape
Net Income
Earnings Per Share
Source: Fabrinet S-1 filing

Nearly all of that money comes from optics, but Fabrinet is trying to expand into sensors, too.

Even though many companies are mired in losses, optical IPOs are still in the works. Laser vendor Santur Corp. has talked openly about an eventual IPO, and MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) is in the process of spinning out its transceiver business, a combination of subsidiaries Fiberxon Inc. and LuminentOIC Inc. (See Santur Raises $26.5M, Talks IPO and MRV Buys Fiberxon, Preps IPO.)

Fabrinet is registered in the Cayman Islands and based in Thailand -- not exactly a comforting combination. But the company gets street cred for its background, having been founded in 1999 by Tom Mitchell, former president of disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology LLC (Nasdaq: STX).

At the time, some entrepreneurs were pushing the photonics industry to become more like semiconductors, with automated manufacturing that could easily be outsourced. Seeing some similarities in the manufacturing processes between disk drive subassemblies and optics, Mitchell used a former Seagate facility to launch his company.

Fabrinet started big. That facility was 200,000 square feet, and the company launched with 1,600 employees. As of September, the company has 640,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 5,075 employees, according to the S-1.

The growth has come as photonics vendors have sought to move manufacturing to Asia, with its lower labor costs. For some, like Bookham Inc. (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM), that's meant building their own facilities there, but other companies have decided to trim costs by outsourcing to operations like Fabrinet.

Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) and JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) were two of Fabrinet's earliest customers and remain two of its largest, accounting for 26 and 15 percent of revenues in fiscal 2007, respectively.

Both companies have direct ties to Fabrinet. Finisar holds a board seat, occupied by Frank Levinson, one of Finisar's founders. JDSU had a board seat that it gave up recently, and it's also a 6.5 percent shareholder in Fabrinet.

Then again, Fabrinet has benefited from JDSU's cost-cutting in recent years, having picked up former JDSU facilities in Indonesia, Singapore, and New Jersey. (See Trimming Continues at JDSU.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 2:59:01 PM
re: IPO Alert: Fabrinet I remember talking to Fabrinet maybe three years ago. They seemed impressive even then. Nice to see they're finally taking the IPO plunge.

One thing I neglected to mention was the company's cash situation -- it's been about flat at $40M the past couple years. Maybe they're trying to raise more for potential acquisitions (that's just idle speculation on my part).
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