Catching up on the smart grid news of note, let’s start with one of the biggest acquisitions in years for French grid and power equipment giant Schneider Electric: its $5.2 billion takeover of U.K.-based industrial controls giant Invensys.
We covered the news of Schneider’s potential purchase of Invensys early last month, along with speculation that other competitors, including Emerson, Siemens, General Electric or ABB, might make counteroffers. But those competing bids failed to emerge, and last week, Schneider agreed to buy the company at a price of 502 pence a share, or £3.4 billion ($5.2 billion), with the deal expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. Bloomberg reported this week that Schneider plans to solicit a £2.56 billion ($3.6 billion) loan to help pay for the acquisition.
Schneider, already a major player in the smart grid and building power equipment fields, will acquire in Invensys a portfolio of industrial controls customers in industries ranging from oil and gas and petrochemicals to mining and pharmaceuticals. It’s the company’s single biggest deal since its $6.2 billion purchase of American Power Conversion (APC) in 2006. Schneider has also made a string of smart grid acquisitions, including its $268 million purchase of energy management firm Summit Energy and its $2 billion purchase of Telvent in mid-2011.
European competitors such as Siemens and ABB have also been making acquisitions to expand their role in industrial controls. In 2010, ABB’s $1 billion purchase of Ventyx, now its core software unit, brought nuclear power and industrial controls systems under its belt, and its 2011 purchase of Mincom added mining software to its portfolio.
Siemens, already a major player in industrial automation, has bought a series of specialty companies in the field, including U.S.-based composite materials software and services company Vistagy in 2011, and two Belgian firms, 3-D software maker VRcontext and industrial automation testing and simulation software maker LMS International, in 2012, to name a few.
- Last week also saw a series of smart metering companies announce their second-quarter earnings, including two back-to-back earnings calls from Silver Spring Networks (SSNI) and Itron (ITRI). Katherine Tweed covered the SSN earnings call last week, in which the company beat analyst expectations with revenues of $9.47 million for the quarter, albeit with an adjusted net loss of $4.46 million or $0.10 per share, for the company’s second quarter as a publicly traded company.
Itron’s second-quarter results were less rosy. The Liberty Lake, Wash.-based smart meter giant reported second-quarter non-GAAP net income of $23 million, or 58 cents per diluted share, on revenues of $482 million, slightly lower than analyst estimates and less than half its second-quarter 2012 non-GAAP income of $47 million on revenues of $579 million.
It’s the second quarter of disappointing earnings for Itron so far this year, and highlights the struggles that it and other smart meter makers are facing. Itron’s declining financial fortunes were largely linked to its energy (electricity and gas) business, which saw a 21-percent drop in second-quarter sales compared to the same period last year.
As with its first-quarter 2013 results, Itron has pointed to the rundown of its five major North American smart metering contracts as driving its reduced revenues. The U.S. smart metering market is in a definite lull, as the billions of stimulus dollars directed at projects have largely run their course. In the meantime, multimillion-unit smart meter projects in Europe, while offering the promise of big markets to come, have seen their own delays and setbacks.
At the same time, Itron has had some good news to announce since last week’s earnings report, including a deal with Pennsylvania utility Duquesne Light for 625,000 smart electricity meters, the completion of its 1.1-million smart gas meter project with Alberta, Canada-based ATCO Gas (the country’s largest gas automation project), and an interesting, if small, prepay gas metering project with South Africa utility Envirofuel.