Cree’s Outlook a Bright Spot in Murky Economy

Cree shares rallied 14 percent to $18.76 Wednesday after a positive earnings report just as cleantech investors are sifting through numbers to separate the strong from the weak. Demand from consumer and automotive products may be down, but government spending in China and possibly the U.S. remains promising.

Cree said revenue in the quarter ended Dec. 28 was $148 million, up 5 percent from a year earlier. Most of the gains came from its core LED products. LED revenue rose 28 percent from a year earlier and 3 percent from the previous quarter. That was more than enough to offset areas that saw declines in revenue, such as high-power products and materials.

Other metrics showed the company is pushing into the recession in good health. Gross margin was 39 percent compared to 36 percent a year earlier. Operating cash flow was $41 million in the quarter, up from $35 million a year earlier but down from $44 million in the previous quarter.
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Cree to Light Up Pentagon With 4,200 LED Fixtures

Durham, N.C.-based Cree, (s CREE) maker of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), will soon illuminate a wing of the Pentagon that’s now undergoing renovations. Defense Department officials signed an agreement today for the company to supply more than 4,200 recessed LED fixtures for part of the Pentagon called Wedge 5. According to Cree, the so-called LR24 luminaires have delivered 22 percent energy savings in government testing. Cree would not disclose details of the Pentagon contract — it’s part of a long line of government deals for Cree dating back to the company’s founding — but the company said the fixtures retail for about $380 apiece.

Pre-Cree Pentagon

Pre-Cree Pentagon

Test installation of Cree fixtures at the Pentagon

Test installation of Cree fixtures at the Pentagon

Funding for the deal will come from Title III, a Department of Defense program designed to “promote creation and strengthening of domestic industrial capabilities to support national security needs.” The program’s stated goal is to enable low-cost early adoption of new technologies into weapon systems.

Cree’s deal could be just one of a slew of energy conservation projects supported by the Department of Defense in the name of national security during the next four years: President-elect Barack Obama’s chosen national security advisor, General James Jones, has advocated for the creation of an energy-policy czar who would sit on both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council to ensure that energy is a central, uniting force in government policy.

Vid-Biz: Sling, Dark-Rumped Petrels, Netflix

SlingCatcher Officially Launches; functionality includes controlling video from local or remote SlingBox without a computer, moving audio and video from a PC to the TV and the soon-to-come (Zatz Not Funny)

Hawaii Considers Pushing Up DTV Transition Date; nesting habitat of the dark-rumped petrel bird could see the state bump the transition date up by a month, to Jan. 15. (Broadcasting & Cable)

Netflix Adds Blu-Ray Fee; company adding $1-a-month fee in exchange for providing unlimited access to Blu-Ray titles. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Warner Bros. Expands Motion Comics; slightly animated versions of Batman: Black & White and Superman: Red Son being developed. (Sci-Fi Wire)

Portable TVs Left Behind in the Digital Switch; used during power losses and emergencies, 7 million battery-powered TV sets could be useless as digital converter boxes need to be plugged in. (USA Today)

It’s Funny Because it’s True? Fake United Talent Agency job listing site posts the following tid-bit (we’ll leave it to the comedy sites to judge). (UTA Joblist (Fake))

Two More Things in CREE’s Favor

Following a rocky first half of 2008, LED maker Cree is starting to see more news in its favor. The stock rallied 12 percent on Friday, well above the 3.4 percent rise in the Nasdaq. It closed the week at $28.75, up 67 percent over the last six weeks.

After reaching a 2008 high around 35 in late February, Cree shares gave up nearly half of their value over the next five months. It has since been recovering as things began to go its way. First, it got some terrific publicity from the Beijing Olympics, with its XLamp LEDs used first in the Water Cube and then in the Bird’s Nest. Then, China came through with infrastructure deals that added even more to Cree”s revenue.

On Friday, Cree received two more bits of good news. First, Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner upped the firm’s rating on CREE to Outperform from Perform. The key reason is a the company’s LEDs are finally moving beyond display screens to general lighting.
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China Gives Cree Unexpected Rise in Sales

Cree, the maker of LED lights and chips, is having its best day on the stock market in nearly six months, rising 16 percent to close at $22.20 after posting fourth-quarter results and issuing a first-quarter forecast late Tuesday that were ahead of Wall Street’s expectations. Since hitting a 52-week high of $35.50 at the end of February, shares of Cree its stock had lost more than half of their value.

Cree saw net profit rise 31 percent in the quarter ended June 29, to $8.4 million, or 9 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, the profit was 16 cents a share, or three cents above the figure estimated by analysts. Revenue grew 22 percent to $136 million, again above the Street’s average forecast of $131 million.

And for the quarter ending Sept. 28, Cree said it sees revenue coming in between $138 million and $142 million. The midpoint range of $140 million is higher than the $136 million Wall Street had forecast.
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And now the French Web 2.0 Wave

France leads Europe in its enthusiasm for Web 2.0 startups, an industry that has doubled in size across the continent since 2005. According to Dow Jones/Venture One data French start-ups raised close to $40 million in venture capital in 2006, accounting for 40% of the total dollars invested in the category across Europe last year ($101 million), and nearly double the money invested in British Web2.0 companies.What are the forces behind this French 2.0 wave?

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Congrats to Catholic Insider, winner of the Best Mobile Podcast

A sincere congratulations goes out to Father Roderick Vonhogen, host of the Catholic Insider podcast and Best Mobile Podcast for 2006. Based on prior comments and e-mails, I’m sure some folks will begin down the “Wait a second, how can that be considered a mobile podcast?” path. For what it’s worth, I’m going to offer my two cents: it is what it is and Catholic Insider is definitely award-worthy, so I hope folks will NOT raise the question of a podcast’s category. Instead, why not drop a note to Father Roderick and congratulate him?

Personally, I find that the soundseeing tours presented are top-notch and take people to places they would never get to themselves. Regardless of religious beliefs, I can honestly say that this podcast affected me profoundly last year. Whether you are of Catholic faith or not, when the Pope passed away, you knew about it because of the world leader status held by the Pope. I will never forget that time; not because of the news, not because of the television, but because Father Roderick shared the immense feeling of grief and loss with one of the most simplest, yet moving podcasts I’ve ever heard. If you missed it, it’s only 2:01 long. Hop on over to the Catholic Insider page and give a listen to CI #24 if you want to see what I mean.

Thanks one last time for the great support you’ve shown MobileTechRoundup! As long as you keep listening, we’ll keep recording!


Its A Mouse, No Its A Phone

There was time, like a year ago, when CES was all about cool gadgets. Not any more – take this latest gizmo from Sony Japan. Its a hybrid mouse and a voip phone. Aka Mouse Talk. Plug-into the USB port of any Windows PC (not Mac of course!) and you can use it as a mouse. When there is an incoming call, the LED blinks, flip the mouse, talk like you would on a flip phone. Shut it, and go back to using a mouse. The gizmo is called Mouse Talk, and will be available in Japan, for about $65 in five colors. I hope my pals at bring it state side.

Update: Jonty had cooked up this idea, and had left a message here. You should have patented that Jonty! via Engadget.