Santa Clara-based touch screen technology maker Synaptics benefits from growth in mobile
By Anna Li | 30 Jan 2013
Synaptics, Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA) reported better-than-expected second fiscal quarter earnings on Thursday, an indication that the upward trend in the global mobile market may have been enough to offset stagnant PC growth.
Santa Clara-based Synaptics manufactures custom-design touch screen and touch pad technology that is incorporated into personal computers, notebooks, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices.
The company reported net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2013 ended Dec. 31, 2012 of $11.1 million or 33 cents per diluted share, down from $17.4 million, or 51 cents per diluted share, reported for the comparable quarter last year.
Excluding one-time acquisition and compensation-related charges, the company reported adjusted earnings of $17.6 million, or 53 cents per share, compared to $23.1 million, or 68 cents per share. Analysts had expected earnings of 45 cents per share, according to a consensus reported by Thompson Reuters.
On Friday, Synaptics’ shares jumped more than 10 percent closing at $36.43 on the NASDAQ Stock Market. Since then, the stock has dropped slightly. Monday, the share price closed at $35.76. Today, Synaptics’ shares sold at $35.32 at the 4 p.m. close of trading on NASDAQ.
Synaptics’ President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Bergman noted in a conference call with analysts that the company’s positive performance in the mobile industry has cushioned the company from a serious downturn in PC sales.
Bergman called the mobile market, a “green-field opportunity.” He pointed to research from Information Handling Services, Inc., which showed the smartphone market hit 660 million units in 2012 and anticipated it will grow to over one billion units in the next two years.
Synaptics’, like its competitors Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NASDAQ: CY) and Amtel Corp. (NASDAQ: ATML), has suffered with the flatlining of the PC market.
Bergman has pushed the company to create very thin touch screens for mobile, ultrabooks and tablets – technology that he thinks will allow Synaptics to differentiate itself from its competition, especially in China. He said during the earnings conference call that he anticipates a boost in sales once the company’s ThinTouch keyboard is more widely integrated with TouchPad technologies in PCs.
The company also anticipates improved sales as Microsoft’s new Windows 8 and touch-based Windows RT operating systems catch on.
Some analysts share that view. “The company has mentioned earlier last year that they’re probably not in the first wave of Windows 8 designs. But I think they’re going to be in the second wave,” said Kevin E. Cassidy, analyst director from Stifel Nicolaus Financial, in a telephone interview. “The second wave of Windows 8 designs are going to have more touch capabilities and I think they’re going to be more successful in the market.”
The company reported revenues of $143 million, a drop from the $145.5 million reported for the comparable quarter of fiscal 2012. The company’s revenues were driven by the mobile market, which accounted for 57 percent of sales, followed by PC products, at 43 percent.
The company hopes a broad portfolio of products, and penetration in domestic and international markets will buoy its position.
It is investing heavily in R&D and last year made two acquisitions: Pacinian Corp., which brought the ThinTouch technology to Synaptics, and the Video Display Operation division of Integrated Device Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: IDTI).
At the recent 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Synaptics received the Innovations design and Engineering Award for its ForcePad, which detects varying levels of finger pressure applied to the touch pad.
Bergman in the conference call pointed to a laundry list of the latest mobile devices that carried Synaptics technology: including the Google Nexus 4 from LG, Verizon’s Droid DNA, Huawei’s new phone the Ascend with Magic Touch – announced at CES – and the Sony Xperia T, featured in the new James Bond movie, among others.
Bill Rajvindra, senior analyst at Needham & Co., said of the quarter: “They sound very confident and they saw a lot of growth last quarter. Q4 mobile business is up 26 percent sequentially. Going into the March quarter, it’s going to be up 5 percent to 10 percent sequentially. So they’re gaining share and those are the good things.” But he pointed out in the telephone interview, “The PC segment is probably going to be down again sequentially. That market is a tough market. There’s no way to escape that.”
Looking ahead, the company said in a post-conference call that it expects third quarter adjusted earnings of 53 cents per share on $143 million in revenue. That prompted analysts at Cowen and Oppenheimer to upgrade their calls on the stock.
Rob Stone, a Cowen analyst, wrote in a disclosure after the conference call that Cowen is planning to raise “earnings per share about 23 percent, upgrading from Neutral to Outperform” and sees a “20 percent upside relative to the market in a year.”
The company used $28.7 million of its $292.5 million cash on hand to repurchase 1,155,299 shares of common stock. Last quarter, Synaptics also entered into a contract to purchase a new building to relocate its headquarters. The company has not yet released a statement about where the new headquarters will be located.
Synaptics’ Chief Financial Officer, Kathy Bayless, plans to present at the Stifel Nicolaus Annual Technology Conference to the investment community on Thursday, Feb. 7 in San Francisco. The company said in a statement that its presentation may include “forward-looking information.”by
Step Aside, Stairmaster
By Anna Li | 15 Nov 2011
Stairs may not be as synonymous with French culture as wine, cheese and baguettes. However, stairs are a huge part of life in France. In the U.S., we often overlook these architectural accessories or hold irrational grudges against them for leaving us breathless after climbing only three floors. The French on the other hand, respect stairs as pieces of art that represent much more than simply a way to get from A to B.
France is a country that places great importance on beauty. French architecture not only honors stairs as a functional part of a building but also lavishes the same amount of detail and attention onto them as what goes into constructing masterpieces like the Louvre Museum and Versailles. After all, this country invented the monumental staircase.
Stairs are ubiquitous. There are more steps everywhere in France than I have ever seen in the U.S. or in New Zealand. People have to climb them in métro stations, in their apartment buildings, in grocery stores and even in bathrooms.
I suspect that they are a feature of daily life in France because most of the buildings are old. Elevators did not exist a few hundred years ago when these buildings were constructed.
In the U.S., most buildings are new. Even the rare house that still stands at over 100 years old cannot compare with the few hundred-year-old hôtels particuliers (the grand private houses of former aristocrats and rich merchants) or churches such as Notre Dame de Paris. And I can assure you, even today, these hôtels particuliers and churches do not have elevators!
Besides, Americans do not have a habit of walking up stairs. My friend and I were shocked recently when we saw a girl wait more than three minutes to take an elevator up ONE floor when she could have taken the stairs and saved herself two minutes.
Back home in New Zealand, we rarely see decorative stairs. Most houses stand at one or two stories high. In addition, placing a magnificent staircase in an ordinary abode would look out of place. Although office buildings often contain more than 15 floors, any stairs in the building would be hidden behind a fire exit sign. Besides, taking an elevator makes sense if you are climbing 15 levels. In terms of architecture, few of our buildings exhibit such grandeur that they would require an elaborate set of stairs to match.
In a city like Paris where real estate is scarce and expensive, stairs make sense. They allow buildings to rise vertically. The added benefit is more space, a worthy tradeoff for the little added effort it takes to climb those steps.
Additionally, the French use their artistic culture to creatively incorporate a staircase that blends well into or even highlights the aesthetics of a building, rather than hiding it away like an ugly secret.
Unfortunately, stairs are usually plain and homely in the U.S. They are functional but they do not awaken our visual senses or beckon us towards them. Worse, buildings often lock them away for fire escapes routes and ban workers and residents from using them. “Use the elevator”, they say, “that’s what it’s there for.”
Perhaps the mundane character of stairs in the U.S. also explains why it is less appealing for Americans to choose them over elevators and escalators.
Health experts recommend climbing stairs as a way to increase activity and to stay active for weight maintenance.
How can we expect more Americans to climb stairs when they have to go out of their way just to find them?
Europeans seem to have an answer. Make stairs fun.
For example, Volkswagen set up a great experiment where they replaced the stairs inside a train station in Sweden with piano stairs. When pedestrians stepped on a stair, it would play music like a piano key. They found 66 percent more people than normal took the stairs instead of the escalator. (Story continues below.)
Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, will attest to the power of stairs. French men and women use them as part of their daily activity – a mindless but effective way to keep moving and burn calories.
The next time you see stairs as a functional nuisance, I challenge to you to take a step towards healthy living by seeing the beauty in the function. Make stairs fun to climb – it’s the easiest way to add extra movement throughout the day.
In case you need more convincing, here is a collection of the most beautiful staircases I observed while travelling around France.by
Opponents of Cupertino tree-planting program draw battle lines in the grass
By Anna Li | 20 Dec 2012
Mike Chaba is protective of his front lawn, which he views as a symbol of suburban homeownership. For 20 years, he has enjoyed tossing the football there with his sons.
But these days the lawn represents something else to Chaba. It’s a constant reminder that Cupertino has told him a tree needs to be planted in front of his house, part of a citywide program to add 1,600 trees in four years.
Ever since he found out, Chaba has been on a crusade. He goes door-to-door in his Rancho Rinconada neighborhood, posting flyers and pleading in exasperated tones for others to stand with him and seek an exemption from the city. “We got a notice that…they were going to come with shovels,” he said.
Across town, Weimin Ma speaks just as passionately in support of the “reforesting” program, which the Cupertino resident helped launch by testifying at a City Council meeting in March. Ma implored the council to plant more street trees, particularly on the many planting strips that are empty.
While cities across the Bay Area have tree-planting programs, the reason so much dirt is being kicked up in Cupertino is that, in some neighborhoods, private lawns blend into the public easement. For two decades, Chaba has taken care of three feet of city property that he considered part of his front lawn.
“Because the planting strip is between the sidewalk and the yard, most people don’t know where [their yard] starts and where the public easement begins,” City Manager David Brandt said. “So people have gotten used to thinking that it’s their yard…and they think you’re essentially planting a tree on their property.”
Homeowners are being asked to choose a tree from a list of 13 species that the city will plant for free. A few Rancho Rinconada residents have vowed to pick the slowest growing tree in protest.
<strong></strong>Chaba said his front yard has never had a tree since he’s lived there, and he doesn’t understand why the city is “replanting.” One explanation is that when Rancho Rinconada was annexed by the city 10 years ago, there were few street trees in the neighborhood, according to former Mayor Mark Santoro, who remains on the council.
What frustrates Chaba most is that the city will not allow homeowners to opt-out. At a Nov. 5 meeting, he found a supporter in council member Rod Sinks. “I’m wondering if it’s really wise to mandate a tree when people are really very upset about it,” Sinks said. “We ought look at this with some flexibility.”
In an interview this week, Brandt, the city manager, said the program “doesn’t have an official opt-out … but we’re not forcing anybody who’s registered a complaint to have a tree planted in the public parking strip in front of their house.” At the November meeting, Brandt estimated that fewer than 5 percent of homeowners had complained.
Chaba insists that Cupertino is “wasting” too much money on trees. A <em>Peninsula Press</em> analysis found that the city spent about $36.27 per resident on street trees in its 2011-2012 budget — less than Mountain View ($41.08) and Palo Alto ($39.40), for example. But Cupertino’s per-capita tree spending increased significantly in the 2012-13 budget, to about $42.77.
Cupertino officials point out that their tree population, numbering about 13,000, lagged behind that of several nearby cities. (Story continues after the charts below.)
In September 2011, the City Council adopted a resolution to apply for a Tree City USA distinction from the Arbor Day Foundation, which recognizes cities that have “effective programs for managing their urban forests,” said Sean Barry, director of media relations for the nonprofit.
The streetscape revitalization is part of this effort. The Department of Public Works also designed QR codes to attach to every street tree so that residents can recognize a public tree and look up information about it, such as the species and age, as well as report if the tree requires attention.
Cupertino can fine residents $2,937 per tree if they illegally prune a public tree more than 25 percent or cut it down without a permit. In addition, it is illegal for residents to plant trees on the city’s easement, because officials want to document every tree and regulate the species planted.
One reason Ma pushed for the program was that the city wasn’t always enforcing its rules. Cupertino usually removes public trees if they are dying or a pose a safety threat. Then, residents are sent a form to request a new tree. But some residents forget to submit the form or choose to ignore it, Ma said.”Somehow,” he said, “someone just dropped the ball…the city doesn’t follow up.”
The forms are now available online. Ma, meantime, frequently walks door-to-door to give his neighbors forms to request public trees in front of their yards.
In a similar but unrelated debate, Mark Taylor has complained about Cupertino’s private tree ordinance, saying it unreasonably demands residents to replace protected heritage trees that are removed due to safety concerns.
Taylor said he has to pay nearly $1,000 to plant two small trees and remove a 300-year-old oak that failed. That was after he had paid several hundreds of dollars for the city arborist to evaluate the oak and eventually remove it.
As it is, Taylor said, his front yard is overcrowded with trees.by
Silicon Valley honors veterans (PHOTOS)
By Anna Li | 12 Nov 2012
Cupertino held a ceremony in Memorial Park with a small parade, guest speakers, and recognition of veterans from all wars. This year, the ceremony paid special tribute to the veterans from the Korean War. The city dedicated a Korean War Boulder to the Cupertino Veterans Memorial.
Organizers also honored the Axelson and Suh families, who lost their sons in Afghanistan. Matthew Axelson and James Suh were Cupertino natives who served as U.S. Navy SEALs. They were killed during Operation Red Wing in Korangal Valley. Artist W. Stanley Proctor created “The Guardians” sculpture to represent the two fallen soldiers continuing to defend freedom as they overlook Memorial Park.by
Cupertino overcomes delays, approves funding for environmental education center
By Anna Li | 28 Oct 2012
For years, many Cupertino residents and city leaders have wanted a new education center at the McClellan Ranch Preserve, an 18-acre site that is home to a community garden, a portion of the Stevens Creek Trail and more than 100 species of birds. Busloads of schoolchildren arrive there almost daily, barely squeezing into the current center – a converted garage — to participate in the environmental programs.
The city got its wish in 2006, receiving a state grant to help build a new center. But those plans were derailed by a lack of additional funding and eventually the grant expired. Teachers continued to cram their students into a space designed for fewer than 30.
The city persisted. Last year the state agreed to extend the grant deadline, and the City Council recently decided it cannot wait any longer or else risk losing the money again — this time for good. On Oct. 2, the council approved spending $1.1 million to proceed with the building plans.
The project has two parts: a 2,400-square-foot education center and an outdoor gathering shelter of about 400 square feet. Timm Borden, the city’s director of public works, said the building will have two classrooms, a library, a “wet lab” for animal and plant exhibits, teacher stations and offices. He estimates the center will hold about 70 students. The center will be build on the site of the former caretakers’ quarters.
Borden said the state grant would provide $251,000 of the project costs and the city’s $1.1 million would come from a Park Dedication Fund ($800,000) and the Capital Improvement Program Reserve Fund ($349,000).
The grant comes from the Roberti-Z’Berg-Harris program — a part of Proposition 40, which Californians passed in 2002 to fund environmental projects that need urgent attention. This grant is designed for rehabilitating parks and recreation facilities.
“We know there is a capacity to do more,” city Parks and Recreation Director Mark Linder said. “The state obviously agrees because it is very difficult to get Proposition 40 money and we got some. It will be a great learning center.”
Based on ambitious estimates, Borden outlined a plan to begin construction in August 2013 and finish by November 2014. The conditions of the grant extension require the project to be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.
Although the City Council voted unanimously, council member Gilbert Wong did question the aggressive schedule. He felt there would not be sufficient time for the council to provide input on the design plans.
Borden countered by saying there will be little room to tweak designs. The city has committed to general facility plans based on the grant submission. Borden assured the council members that there would be time for their feedback.
Council member Rod G. Sinks said the center will boost the community’s appreciation of biological science and the outdoors. “This opportunity, right in our own backyards, to enhance and bring people out will serve the community very well,” he said.
The city’s senior naturalist, Barbara Banfield, has spent more than 30 years working at the nature preserve. Every third-grader in the Cupertino school district comes out to the reserve for a creek tour as part of their science curriculum. Banfield also organizes K-6 nature walks and high school field trips. She runs most of the environmental programs out of the current center, often juggling seven to eight classes a day.
“We have been waiting patiently for attention to come to the buildings and facilities here,” she said. “The time is right.”
The new center will allow Banfield to accommodate more students. No longer will teachers need to double book on the same days, which happened frequently in the past because “nobody wants to bring a busload of children on a rainy day,” Banfield said.
Debbie Frazier, a science teacher at Monta Vista High School, brings her Advanced Placement biology students to the ranch to collect data on tree populations. She said a new center is “sorely needed.” Frazier has worked alongside Banfield for years and said a larger, updated building would make a big difference in the programs that Banfield runs.
“The building is in need of repair and it would be great to give her more space because she hosts (events) for the city and classrooms come out quite a bit to use the space,” Frazier said. “It’s a neat opportunity for (students) to appreciate the detail and the beauty of nature and how we’ve got a full ecosystem out there.”by