Here's a sobering outlook for Tellabs Inc.:
"The mostly likely scenario appears to be a slow wind-down during which most of the cash is returned to shareholders," writes analyst Mike Genovese of MKM Partners, in a report issued Friday.
In other words, he thinks Tellabs could go "gently into that good night." That's what he titled his report, anyway.
Coincidentally, that's what Sycamore Networks Inc. did on Friday. Completing a plan laid out in October, Sycamore's shareholders voted to liquidate the company, minus the Intelligent Bandwidth Management business, which got sold to Marlin Equity Partners. (See Sycamore Prepares to Shut Down.)
Both companies were optical high-fliers around the turn of the century that found themselves with lots of cash after the bubble peaked. What they've got in common is that neither managed to build a fully revived business from that bankroll.
But Tellabs tried. Sycamore, by contrast, seemed to shore up for the long winter. Even in early 2005 -- eight years ago! -- we were talking about Sycamore possibly closing up shop. (See Will Sycamore Call It a Day? and Sycamore Being Sycamore.)
Tellabs, meanwhile, acquired Advanced Fibre Communications (AFC) in 2004 for $1.5 billion to move into the access business, only to find out how unkind a business it is. By 2008, it was clear Tellabs needed another new direction. (See Tellabs Kills Its Verizon GPON Efforts and TLAB Shakeup Coming.)
More recently, Tellabs had a couple of flops -- the SmartCore 9100 for mobile-network cores and the 9200 edge router, which the company discontinued on Thursday. (See Tellabs Axes Product, Cuts Jobs.)
It's not the greatest highlight reel, but what does Sycamore have to show for the past several years? A story in The Wall Street Journal Friday notes Sycamore "distributed more than $750 million in special dividends over the past three years." Maybe that's nice math for shorter-term shareholders, but I think most of us would prefer to see a company identify and invest in evolutionary market strategies, much like Tellabs continues to do.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading