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Ventura tech firms shake it up

By   /   Friday, June 20th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Ventura tech firms shake it up

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Comings, goings and job and pay cuts shook up the top layers at three of Ventura County’s publicly traded technology companies last month.

Camarillo-based Semtech added a new chair to its executive suite, creating the position of chief technology officer.

Oxnard-based CalAmp bridged two of its major divisions, accepting the resignation of its chief operations officer along the way. Camarillo-based Interlink Electronics cut 16 percent of its workforce, slashed executive salaries by 10 percent and said its interim chief executive will go without pay.

The changes come at the tail end of a relatively peaceful run in the high-tech sector. The segment largely kept pace with the market and certain parts of it even managed to boost profits amid a generally gloomy first two quarters.

But those times may be coming to a close. In a widely circulated note, Citigroup’s chief investment strategist downgraded technology hardware and equipment from “market weight” to “underweight,” saying that the credit crunch over the past year will likely make its way to information technology budgets at businesses, which will hurt tech companies.

“Tech spending patterns also tend to trail corporate profit trends, which we believe will display more widespread weakness in [the second half of 2008],” Tobias Levkovich wrote in a note to investors June 16.

Semtech’s move to add an executive comes after a strong run in its stock price earlier this year, when it rose from a low of around $12 in February to more than $18 earlier this month. The firm, which makes semiconductors for power management, communications and other applications, promoted company veteran

Mike Wilson to the new position of chief technology officer and senior vice president of business development.
Wilson, who formerly oversaw the company’s power-management products, will provide technical guidance to all of its lines and scout out new areas for the company to expand into. “This is a very good situation for Semtech,” company CEO Mohan Maheswaran said in a release.

CalAmp, which makes both multi-network wireless systems that let first responders access data and direct broadcast satellites for television subscribers, has had a mostly stable stock price in the first two quarters, aside from a slight spike in early April. The company combined two of its largest divisions, its wireless datacom and satellite division into one operating unit.

The company named Michael Burdiek its new chief operating officer. The head of the satellite division and chief operations officer, Patrick Hutchins, resigned.

In a release, the company said it expected the change to increase efficiency. Executives could not be reached for comment on Hutchins’ resignation.

The hardest shake-up in recent weeks came at Interlink Electronics, which makes force sensors used in home gaming and agriculture along with e-signature pads used by businesses. On an annual basis, the company has not produced a positive cash flow for more than three years. Its stock price fell from above $1.80 earlier this year to about 80 cents.

On May 27, the company cut about 16 percent of its work force, 14 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees. The firm now has a total head count of 205 part-time and full-time workers.
In the same announcement, the company said its interim chief executive, John Bucket, will go without pay beginning June 30. Its three other executives – Charles Best, Rod Vesling and Farhad Rostamian – will take a 10 percent cut in pay.

The moves were designed to help the company achieve two consecutive positive-cash-flow quarters. The company said it expects to save about $2 million.

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