JDSU Steps Up the Pace

Facing a big reverse split vote by holders, the firm notes its progress.
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A retooled JDSU (JDSU) says it's geared up for a little growth.

Lest troubling memories linger of the

former JDS Uniphase, the San Jose, Calif., company is on Wall Street this week to stress that this is the "new JDSU." And with several underperforming businesses and nearly four dozen executives out the door, the new-and-improved JDSU says it is succeeding by focusing on three main businesses: optical components, network testing and specialty coatings.

David Gudmundson, the company's head of corporate development, dropped by Monday. The visit came ahead of a shareholder vote Thursday on a proposed reverse stock split. JDSU wants investors to rubber-stamp a plan to boost the share price by reducing the number of shares outstanding.

Even without any reverse split, JDSU's revival efforts have been handsomely rewarded. The stock has gained nearly 50% in the two months since the company floated the reverse split plan and changed its name. JDSU shares fell 4 cents to $2.39 in midday trading Monday.

As the key supplier of lasers at the heart of the optical networks, JDSU enjoyed a blistering ride up during the heady Internet building boom. Today, the company appears to have survived the ensuing postboom industry collapse.

CEO Kevin Kennedy is credited with the reorganization of JDSU. Before joining the company in 2003, Kennedy spent time at wireless software shop

Openwave

(OPWV)

, and prior to that he ran

Cisco's

(CSCO) - Get Report

telco business.

Gudmundson, who worked with Kennedy at Cisco, shared an updated to-do list of businesses shoved out or in the process of moving toward the exit. He also showed a new organizational chart featuring only four holdovers from the old JDS Uniphase days. In fact, since Kennedy's arrival, 47 executives have been replaced, says Gudmundson.

And though not as acquisitive as its prebust days, JDSU has made several deals to bolster its offerings. Lacking growth, but with a surplus of cash, JDSU veered off in an entirely new direction in May with the $760 million

purchase of Acterna, a network testing and measurement gearmaker.

JDSU ventured far outside its core strength when it took on Acterna. And some critics see it as an

integration nightmare with almost nothing in common with the company's development of lasers and transponders.

But company reps call it a great entry into an adjacent market, with 250 new customers to sell to.

Gudmundson concedes that integrating Acterna's Germantown, Md.-based operations, with 1,700 employees, will be a challenge.

"We are trying," he says, "to keep people happy, on board and engaged." But Gudmundson declined to provide any progress report or retention target.

Overall, the JDSU message seems to be that the company is moving in the right direction and growing. But don't expect the pace to be too quick.

Gudmundson puts annual optical systems' sales growth somewhere between 5% and 10%. Similarly, he expects the Acterna tests and measurements unit to deliver between 5% and 15% growth.

Wall Street, however, seems a little more optimistic. Analysts polled by Reuters Research expect 2007 sales to increase about 12% over 2006 levels.