This column was originally published on RealMoney on Nov. 28 at 12:11 p.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
If I told you that I had the best single anticounterfeit play to stop the rampant pirating in China, you'd buy it in a heartbeat. If I told you that I knew a laser company that wasn't at its 52-week high, even though it is a precision, non-industrial laser company with great growth potential, you'd leap at it. If I told you I had a pigment company working on photovoltaic properties that allow you to have everything from a soccer ball that glows in the dark to a tamper-proof $20 bill, you would say, "Let me take that sucker right now."
But what if I told you the play was buried within a company and that it was, at best, 25% of the company's prospects? What if I told you the rest of the company was a parts supplier to
? What would you do with a company that could get squeezed by Cisco in order for Cisco to make enough money selling equipment to
? And how would you react if I told you that this company has its hands full with competition from
, the great test and measurement player?
You'd probably say, "Get me to stock loan; can I borrow some shares to sell it short?"
That's how I felt after meeting with some of the new management team from
. Actually, "new management team" is an understatement. This company is a vastly different enterprise from the hydra-headed, shotgun-wedded piece of junk that was JDSU under that guy with the beret.
This is a company that has spent the last two years in deep purgatory, under the radar, attempting to salvage itself, to reposition itself, to reduce cost and yet still have a business. Because of the cash hoard it has -- remember, JDSU financed itself at its high, so it is like a dot-com that socked away money and didn't bleed it -- it has been able to buy some companies and to sell and close a lot of others.
What's left is, alas, three businesses linked by research and development technology:
- optical communications equipment -- think fiber optics to the home or premises
test and measurement, a new division that tests and measures things like
Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Report lines to see if the signal goes backward as well as into the house; and
commercial and consumer products, all of those cool things I started with.
What's it worth? Holy cow, who knows?!?
Is it worth more than its selling for? Yes, if the Verizons and Comcasts are serious about their buildouts against each other. Yes, if you believe that the mergers and acquisitions in telecom aren't going to stop capital expenditures as the companies figure out what they need to be. Yes, if you believe JDSU can get the story out about the lasers and the pigments and the cool anticounterfeit stuff.
No, if you think, "Well, hold it; I have my hands full with
and Lucent and Nortel and Comcast and Verizon; who needs to sell into that market? I'd rather sell into autos, for heaven's sake!"
Most investors have neither the time nor the patience to figure out if JDSU will figure it out. I feel differently. In the end, I believe that JDSU is out of a lot of bad legacy businesses and is ready to grow the new ones. It's not
, the great turnaround story of a lifetime because it has big-screen televisions. In fact, JDSU is the anti-Corning, more levered to the stuff that Corning still isn't having much luck selling: fiber optics.
But JDSU is not some bedraggled manufacturer that has nothing but old stuff that it can't ever get any good gross margins for. It remains No. 1 in the fiber-optic equipment that is needed for Verizon to stop Comcast-
, and is a solid No. 2 to Agilent in test and measure of light products.
Still, I know that if the company were simply to say, "We are getting out of that supplier business," or "We are just going to design and not manufacture stuff for telcos but we are going to ramp lasers and counterfeit," you'd pay $4 for the darned thing, if not more.
Bottom line: JDSU is worth owning, but
if you own anything else in the telco space already. It's a good placeholder lottery ticket with a kicker, some exciting businesses buried beneath the rubble of some very lame customers whom we are all sick of being geared to because we have lost so much money waiting for the turn.
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At the time of publication, Cramer was long Lucent.
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