Four Security Companies Doing Well in a Bad Environment

Includes: CSR, FLIR, ICXT, ID
by: Jeff Kessler

Government contracts are very important for the security industry, but ultimately most of them – even the largest  – should mostly serve as beta-tests and reference sites for what should be a much larger industrial/commercial and institutional market.  Over the long term, we believe commercial/industrial contracts are steadier and involve greater recurring revenues.  But, of course, during economic slowdowns it might just be a big help to depend on those Government contracts. 


Some of the companies we have written up are doing just that – accelerating their Government business.  Whether it is the slow, but inexorable movement to improve identity management here, or protect sensitive domestic installations and ports, or to protect troops in the war theater, the companies that are winning these contracts (especially those smaller companies winning subcontracts and branding themselves in the process) are actually doing quite well in a bad economic environment.


Below we detail four security companies in the security industry, three on which we have written blog posts, and one which we covered in a “past life." These companies are likely to at least meet, and possibly beat estimates or management guidance, simply because their Government  contract momentum is so strong.


FLIR Systems.  The first, and perhaps most obvious beneficiary to Government contracts in the security industry this year is FLIR (see “FLIR and Axis AB: A Tale of Two Video Technology Companies,” published May 13).  Although our long-term investment case on FLIR is built on lower sensor costs accelerating demand in commercial, security, and civilian markets, it is military orders that have driven the stock up (37% year-to-date), and analysts’ estimates with them. 

Indeed, one might speak of an avalanche of military orders, eight since late May, including the largest, a $358 million revision to an IDIQ (indefinite delivery indefinite quantity) order for the U.S. Army.  The orders range from infrared cameras on military vehicles, Coast Guard helicopters, surveillance airplanes in Colombia, medium-range thermal binoculars, and sensors to go on sensor-studded 8-10 story towers that the Army wants to have in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect each company of soldiers. 


Those orders are part a two-year, $1.5 billion program called Base Expeditionary Targeting and Surveillance Sensors-Combined (BETSS-C).  FLIR’s current consensus estimates are $1.27 in 2008 and $1.46 in 2009, but that consensus is rising even as we write this blog.  The only questions for FLIR are what is the proper P/E on 2009 estimates, and are those estimates taking into account the tough growth comparisons they will now face for 2008.  For analysts, there is always something to gripe about.


ICx Technologies.  Another beneficiary of the BETSS-C program is ICx Technologies (ICXT), a company which we have covered in the past, but only now are writing the first blog, has also just won a series of new contracts.  ICx, though small (consensus estimates are $180 million for 2008), has nevertheless become the leading independent provider of small explosive/radiological/biological detection equipment, radar and infrared surveillance technologies, and “integrated solutions” combining the above. 

ICx’ announced on July 1, that it had won a $14 million contract under BETSS-C for its “Cerberus” surveillance towers on which the sensor technologies from other companies (like FLIR) will be mounted.  Given the size of BETSS-C, we doubt this is the last order we will hear regarding ICx and FLIR.  However, ICx is also far more than its towers – indeed most of the attention from the investment community centers around its “Fido” handheld explosives detection devices, including its unique patented ability to detected hydrogen peroxide—based liquid explosive, where in May it won a $5 million contract from the military (Robotics System Joint Program Office).


Nevertheless, ICx has just shocked at lot of folks when its Solutions division also won a $15.6 million contract at the end of June to manage an “intelligent transportation system: for Orange County, California.  The ICx contract includes installation of a real-time, bus-arrival passenger information system, preliminary design of a signal priority system and signal system enhancements to improve arterial operations.   Analyst consensus for ICx are for revenues of $180 million in 2008, with a GAAP loss of $0.72 per share and breakeven EBITDA.  Consensus estimates for 2008 are for $238 million in revenues, $0.10 per share in earnings, and EBITDA of $33-$35 million.


L-1 Identity Solutions.  We have recently written in-depth about L-1 Identity Solutions (NYSE:ID), the leading provider of identification solutions (“Do Not Ignore L-1 Identity Solutions as the ID Market Grows,” published June 15).  We strongly believe there will be consolidation among several of the long lineup of  U.S. and international identification programs now being implement and that L-1 (with the Digimarc acquisition in hand) will have a major role in many as a subcontractor or as a prime contractor. 

Moreover, we refuse to believe that the  highly publicized ID programs — PassCard program at the national level and Real ID at the state level — are going to be limited to their current budgets in the $220-$350 million range.  We are convinced there will be far greater dollars spent in these “regional” and “state-by-state” programs than what is budgeted today…  Finally the consolidation of identification programs should affect nearly all domestic initiatives from HSPD 12/24, to PassCard, to Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, to US-Visit, to TWIC, Real ID, to Sarbanes-Oxley, to HIPAA, and war theater and defense identification. 

We also believe there will be consolidation of Gulf States national identity programs, Latin American voting and ID programs, and even to Indian tax card and ID programs. 

To get to the heart of the matter, we believe that both the “updated” drivers license and military identification programs are going to have a positive effect on L-1’s results in 2008.  Indeed, the company announced on June 27, a $5 million contract delivery for its HIIDE (Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment), the company’s well regarded multi-modal biometric (iris-face-finger) handheld ID unit (customer not announced, but we assume it is the U.S. military), which we also assume will have follow-on orders.  Company management has guided to $670 million of revenue in 2008 (all numbers are pro forma, assuming the acquisition of Digimarc on January 1, 2008), EBITDA of $110 million, and a backlog of $1 billion.  Most recent analyst consensus GAAP estimates are for $0.15 in 2008 and $0.35 in 2009.


China Security & Surveillance.  Finally, we would again mention China Security & Surveillance (NYSE:CSR) as a perfect example of a company where Government programs are driving revenues, even within a country that is trying to slow its economy down (“China Security & Surveillance: Go-to-Market and Strategic Leadership in Security in China,” published June 26.)  Although over half of the company’s revenues are in the commercial sector and subject to a planned slowdown in China, the percentage of growth from Government programs is growing rapidly. 

While the company has won large contracts in the cities of Yinchaun, Jining and Qungzhou City, our sources believe there will be a series of $10+ million-sized contracts coming over the course of 2008 into 2009 which will be more typical of the types of contracts to be won.  The company just won its first two projects in Beijing, and we believe that government projects, once scaled up and proven out will lead to more commercial projects as well.


Disclosure: The author has a position in L-1 Identity Solutions and ICx Technologies, and is considering taking a position in China Security & Surveillance.