Conexant ( CNXT) has tapped a veteran semiconductor industry executive to lead the struggling company to profitability. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based maker of communications chips announced Monday that Daniel Artusi will join the company as CEO, replacing Dwight Decker, who announced his intention to retire in March. Artusi is a former CEO of Silicon Laboratories ( SLAB) and spent 24 years at Motorola's ( MOT) semiconductor division. But he will have his hands full at Conexant. In recent months, the company has been hamstrung by weak growth, customer delays and inventory issues. In April, the company announced a $133.4 million net loss for its second quarter and said that sales of $199 million were down 17.6% year over year. Conexant makes chips for television set-top boxes, wireless networking and DSL modems, among other things. "Conexant has a rich and storied history, and the company continues to address some of our industry's most exciting, highest-growth opportunities with an outstanding portfolio of communications products and technologies," Artusi said in a statement. "We face near-term challenges, but I am confident that we possess the talent and market positions required to build significant shareholder value." Shares of Conextant were unchanged at $1.47 in midday trading Monday. The company's shares are down roughly 63% since hitting a peak of $3.90 in April 2006.
Artusi will take the reins on July 9, replacing Decker, a former CEO of Conexant who came out of retirement in November 2004 to turn the company around. Decker made progress fixing some of Conexant's problems but didn't accomplish the key objective of returning the company to profitability after years of bleeding red ink. CIBC World Markets semiconductor analyst Allan Mishan wrote in a note to investors Monday that the appointment of Artusi could represent the first step in a major change at Conexant and act as a catalyst for the struggling stock. CIBC makes a market in shares of Conexant. Among the key steps necessary to revive Conexant, wrote Mishan, are deep cuts in the company's operating expenses and a new focus on a few core business segments. "We view the appointment of Mr. Artusi as a positive, though it will likely take some time for the company to articulate a new strategy," wrote Mishan.