Linthicum-based Ciena Corp., which has turned increasingly to government contracting in its long-running effort to return to profitability, is partnering with Presidio Corp., a network services provider with links to federal agencies.
Ciena, best known as a maker of fiber-optic equipment, on Monday announced the partnership with Greenbelt-based Presidio, whose customers include the Commerce, Defense, and Treasury departments. Two weeks ago, Ciena started a new subsidiary, Ciena Government Solutions Inc., and appointed a government advisory board to help it line up federal customers.
With government contracting driving the Washington area's economy, many companies that once concentrated on the private sector are looking for a share of federal spending.
Ciena was once among the area's technology superstars. It raised $125 million when it went public in 1997, making it one of that year's top-performing IPOs. But demand for the fiber-optic equipment it provided to telecommunications companies plummeted when the telecom boom went bust.
Since then, the company has made a series of acquisitions to broaden its product offerings and to expand into the cable and business services markets.
"The strategy we have pursued is to drive stronger revenue growth over the long term," said Suzanne Dulong, the company's chief communications officer. "This is a story in progress."
The moves have yet to stop Ciena from losing money. For its fiscal second quarter ended April 30, the company reported a loss of $74.8 million (13 cents a share) on revenue of $103.8 million, compared with a loss of $76.2 million (16 cents) on revenue of $74.7 million in the corresponding quarter a year earlier.
Ciena's stock traded above $200 a share at one point in August 2000 before a two-for-one split. It closed at $2.31 yesterday, down 4 cents.
Over the past two years, Ciena has signed deals with the Defense Department, Verizon Communications Inc. and BT Group PLC.
Ciena said its new partnership with privately held Presidio is already paying off with new customers, including the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority in Florida. Presidio was co-founded by Ralph Cruikshank, a former U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for information management.
Still, Ciena, which reduced its workforce by a net 200 positions between the start of fiscal 2004 and the end of fiscal 2005's second quarter, continues to seek savings. The company said in its latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to move some of its operations offshore to a new site in India.
"Ciena is certainly not alone in trying to go after government business," said Timm Bechter, a broadband and wireless equipment analyst for Legg Mason Wood Walker who follows the company. But he said the partnership with Presidio may pay off because of its close relations with government agencies.
For Ciena, he said, "the whole issue is how much cash do they burn until they get to break-even."