Since peer MOSAID was acquired by U.S.-based private equity firm Sterling approximately this time last year, Wi-LAN (TSX:WIN) has represented the unprecedented run in patent values from a Canadian perspective.
The Ottawa-based company, which took flight after former MOSAID exec Jim Skippen took the helm in 2006, has quietly become one of the world’s top patent acquirers, on par or better than Apple, Samsung and Google. But while 2009 through the midpoint of 2011 were full of action for Wi-LAN shareholders, the time since has been lackluster. Wi-LAN shares have fallen from a peak of more than $9 to recent lows well under $5.
Byron Capital analyst Tom Astle, who met with management recently, says his sum-of-parts/net present value calculation, based on booked business, patent portfolio business and cash indicates that even if the company’s business stopped operating tomorrow Wi-LAN shares should be worth about $5.
Astle says that 2013 promises to be a better year for Wi-LAN because it has a very busy litigation schedule, and also because when cases settle, revenue climbs and expenses fall. The Byron Capital analyst says there could be “significant upside” to his forecast that Wi-LAN will increase its revenue by 20% next year. In a recent update to clients, Astle reiterated his BUY rating and $7.50 target on Wi-LAN.
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Wi-LAN was founded in 1992, commercializing a range of communications and consumer electronics products including routers, 3G handsets and WiMAX base stations. The Company now has more than three-thousand patents, and has already licensed their technologies to blue chip techs such as Cisco, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung. Under Skippen’s watch, the company’s revenue has climbed from just over $2 million in fiscal 2006 to the more than $100 million in fiscal 2011.
Astle says he finds it somewhat curious that the term “patent troll” gets tossed around a lot, when the fact is that most patents are filed by the little guys -inventors, universities and small companies – against large companies who are generating the vast majority of patent licensing revenues. For this reason, Astle says the patent game is not a flash in the pan; he believes Wi-LAN’s addressable revenue potential is still over $1 billion over the next five years. This, he says, inspires confidence in the company’s goal to double revenue from the current $100 million/yr rate.
At press time, shares of Wi-LAN were down .4% to $4.76.