Lumentum: Early DCO Departure Projected

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As fibeReality addressed in a recent article, “12 Aftershocks From Cisco-Acacia Quake,” one of the optical suppliers, which will experience the negative effects the longest, is Lumentum Holdings. The bottom line is that at least quasi-ownership of the DSP technology is a must in order to effectively compete in the DCO space, and it becomes even more critical in moving to higher data rates. The combination of the new game plan of “the bulk” [of another of $40 million in synergy costs]…be[ing] realized towards the tail end of [the next five quarters],” along with “DCO shipments…expect[ed]…to grow through the fiscal year and be a meaningful part of our telecom revenue over the next several quarters,” appears to demonstrate that Lumentum intends to start withdrawing from that coherent space relatively quickly. We also trust that having a true CFO came in handy in making this unanticipated, strategic shift, in time for that Q4 2019 earnings call. In the rest of this article, we will discuss the other factors, which played a part in the corporate decision to extract additional cost savings, which will seemingly affect the ex-Oclaro side of the house in a really adverse manner.

Certainly, there were market dynamics outside of Lumentum’s control contributing to the need for the dramatic change, including the trade war with China, the decline in demand for commercial lasers, the debilitating margins with its long-established, componentry offerings, and the initial cracks in its 3D Sensing (3DS) business (“price declines”). The major factors that were in Lumentum’s control, which unnecessarily exacerbated the situation, included forecasting unreasonably high total gross margins, arguably being overconfident earlier that the good times would last indefinitely with 3DS, as well as being surprisingly unprepared for the extended growth in the ACO space.

Undoubtedly, if the supplier had been prudent in placing Oclaro’s former CEO, on its board, Greg Dougherty, at a minimum, he would have provided valuable guidance in potentially helping to prevent such ill-advised decisions/suppositions. At best, in putting the DSP/DSO deal together with Acacia, there could have been a chance that Lumentum would not been caught by what we perceive to be so flat-footed by Cisco’s buyout announcement.

We do not mean to imply that Lumentum could have ever beaten Cisco in a bidding contest, even with third-party cash provided, or that it would have outlasted “Party C” (in the Acacia proxy statement — it is reasonable to suppose that it was Broadcom). With the presumption that Lumentum is “Party A,” and with the speculation flying all around closer to the time of the deal, it is hardly a stretch that Dougherty, who would have been much closer to the action on the board, and with his extensive connections throughout the industry (based on his reputation for being a straight-shooter), could have become aware much sooner about on-going negotiations.

So, the components vendor may have been able to engage with Acacia earlier, to be in a position to point out the evident pitfalls to the latter in going with Cisco, rather than a Broadcom, regardless of the price. Of course, Lumentum, and several other suppliers, as well as countless users, would have been much better off. Dougherty also may have been more skeptical about any assurances given by Acacia along the way, regarding any long-term dependency on Lumentum.

Lumentum must realize that Inphi’s new position in the merchant DSP space, prevents the former establishing a comparable relationship with the latter — out of what would be a prohibitive expense for the former. Also, in every practical sense, with Acacia now being taken out of the picture, Inphi can now dominate the DCO space all by itself, with its vertical integration advantage.

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As always, fibeReality does not recommend any securities, and this writer does not invest in any companies being analyzed by us.

[written by Mark Lutkowitz]



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