Silver Spring Networks (SSNI), the Silicon Valley smart grid networking upstart, went public last year with a promise to out-innovate the entrenched AMI competition. But it still makes most of its money in smart meter deployments -- and as those have dried up, Silver Spring has suffered with the rest of the industry.
The latest blow came this week, when Silver Spring announced it’s laying off employees around the world, in a “restructuring plan designed to reduce operating expenses” and save $2 million by the end of next year. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Silver Spring said it expects to incur charges of up to $4 million in severance and termination costs, most of it in the third quarter of this year.
Shares of Silver Spring were down 6.2 percent to $9.70 in Thursday afternoon trading on the Nasdaq exchange, and down roughly one-quarter from a weekend high of $12.50. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company, which has networked about 18 million smart meters with big U.S. utilities like PG&E, Commonwealth Edison and Florida Power & Light, has seen a steady erosion of its market value from its early highs of $32 a share.
In February, Silver Spring reported fiscal year 2014 revenues that failed to meet its annual growth projections, with blame placed on delays in some large smart meter and grid networking contracts. Since then it’s expanded its networked street lighting and “smart city” projects in Europe and the U.S., and landed a partnership with Singapore-based smart meter maker EDMI with an eye on broader Asian markets.
It’s also putting its software suite to use with a few utility partners for demand response and customer engagement, distribution automation networking, smart street lights, and early tests of its SilverLink Sensor Network. The company’s 8-K filing noted that its restructuring would “better align the company’s investments to its growth and key businesses, such as SilverLink, continued global expansion, and its smart city initiatives,” and said it would have more to say in its upcoming third-quarter 2014 conference call. Company representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Still, work like this makes up a small portion of Silver Spring’s revenues. The majority comes from big smart meter deployments -- and those are hard to come by. In the United States, the multi-billion-dollar stimulus funding that pushed AMI deployments to record highs is all but spent. While 50 million Americans now have smart meters as a result, reaching the rest of the country will take a lot longer.
In Europe, meanwhile, several nationwide smart meter rollouts have either been delayed, as with France, or put on indefinite hold, as with Germany. Those that have been tendered, Silver Spring hasn’t won -- it lost out to Telefonica and Sensus for the U.K.’s nationwide smart meter networking plans, for example. Similarly, it lost its bid for Tokyo’s 22-million-unit smart meter deployment to Landis+Gyr and its parent company, Toshiba.
Silver Spring hasn’t been the only smart meter vendor suffering. Itron (ITRI), its biggest North American competitor, laid off about 9 percent of its workforce in September, and announced in February that it was abandoning poorly performing legacy business lines to focus on next-generation technology, such as its embedded sensing and its partnership with Cisco. (Analysts have named both companies as potential acquisition targets.) And San Jose, Calif.-based Echelon (ELON) announced last month that it was selling its decade-old smart meter business to focus on its “industrial internet of things” businesses, like smart lighting and networked, IP-enabled building controls.