When the economic world is falling apart, as it seemed to be in late 2008 and through 2009, it’s hard for public company execs to take action. As we wrote about in Cantech Letter at the time, many Canadian tech companies were forced to ride out the storm by paring back expenses, which sometimes meant labour reductions of 10% or more. Most execs don’t think of recessions as a time to grow their business, but there’s a lot of data that says maybe they should. When global management consulting firm Bain and Company
examined 24,000 acquisitions made between 1996 and 2006, they found something interesting; those deals made in downturn years (2001 and 2002) delivered “almost triple the excess returns of companies that made acquisitions during the prior boom years.”
Shares of Webtech Wireless (TSX:WEW) were languishing when the company acquired Toronto based Grey Island Systems in October of 2009. Webtech had fallen from a high of near $7 in April, 2007 to just over a dollar. The acquisition did nothing to slow the stock’s steady descent to near forty cents, where it trades today. Webtech paid approximately $38 million for Grey Island, arguably inexpensive for a company posting a nine month trailing revenue number of $16.62 million and possessing more than $11 million cash.
Webtech management surmised that Grey Island’s core products InterFleet and nextBus, which provided real time Global Positioning and Automated Vehicle Location systems tracking of ambulances and buses, respectively, would dovetail with Webtech’s existing location based fleet management products.
As many investors know, acquisitions can sometimes take a long time to filter through the balance sheet of the acquisitor. But if the most recently reported numbers are any indication, Webtech and Grey Island hit the ground running. On November 8th, Webtech reported revenue of $10.3 million for the third quarter of 2010, compared to $5.0 million in Q3. Nine month revenue was way up, too, to $30.4 million from $18.9 million the previous year.
So were Webtech’s improved numbers a coincidence or the result of a better business general environment? In the Q3 press release management couldn’t have been clearer on the matter: “The growth in revenue is primarily the result of the acquisition of Grey Island Systems”, they stated. Investors in Webtech Wireless, however, are still waiting for the stock to respond. Shares were up only slightly, to $.385 cents on Friday, as near a million shares changed hands.
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