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Senior Editor

Proxim bleeds more red ink

Jul 09, 20033 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

The men who engineered a merger to create a wireless net powerhouse have resigned from Proxim’s board of directors, as the company this week warned that it expects to post a greater than expected loss.

On Monday, Proxim said revenue for the second quarter will be $34 million to $35 million, and the loss will be 3 to 4 cents per share. Analysts were expected a loss of about 2 cents. The company will release its results on July 22.

Board Chairman Jonathan Zakin and Vice Chairman David King have resigned. Zakin was formerly chairman and CEO of Western Multiplex before its 2002 merger with Proxim. King held the same posts at Proxim.

The merger was touted as a way of combining Proxim’s wireless LAN (WLAN) expertise and markets with Western Multiplex’s portfolio of fixed wireless products for carriers and enterprises. In theory, the company could offer a full range of local and long-distance wireless products, a portfolio that would be attractive to service providers and enterprise net executives.

But the reality has been starkly different.

In the last four quarters, Proxim has lost over $190 million, on revenue of about $160 million. Revenue in the most recent quarter (first quarter of 2003) dropped 20%, to $40 million from $50 million in the previous quarter (fourth quarter of 2002).

The stock price has been hammered. From a high of about $25 per share in 2001, the stock dropped after the merger, eventually hitting bottom at a mere 40 cents. The NASDAQ considered de-listing Proxim. After Monday’s financial warning and the resignations, the stock price dropped from about $1.70 to $1.30 on Tuesday, and on Wednesday to about $1.20.

The results are striking when compared with the aggressive strategy Zakin and King continued to unfold in 2002. After the merger, Proxim bought out the Orinoco WLAN product line and brand from Lucent spinoff Agere Systems, a move that was intended to solidify Proxim’s presence in the general enterprise market. Its existing Harmony line of WLAN products was phased out in favor of the better-known Orinoco label.

Last December, the company announced a big reorganization, with King shifting from his duties as Proxim president and COO to a new position on the board of directors: vice chairman. Zakin, besides being chairman and CEO, temporarily took on the duties of both titles left vacant by King’s transfer. At the same time, four operating divisions were consolidated into two; and the board launched a search for a new president.

That search led to Frank Plastina, a former high-ranking Nortel veteran, who had joined in April 2003 the investment firm Warburg Pincus, which owned at that time about 86% of Proxim’s stock. A month after joining the firm, Plastina was house-shopping in California after being named Proxim’s new president and CEO.

A Proxim spokeswoman said the company would have no further comment until the formal earnings announcement later this month.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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