Monday, December 17, 2001

Lightbridge tightens reins

Published in Interface Tech News

BURLINGTON, Mass. ‹ Continuing its post-merger shuffling of personnel and resources, mobile business services company Lightbridge is closing one of its four offices and shifting tasks and employees to the remaining three. Most of the employees have left the Palo Alto, Calif. office, although a few will remain through May.

Its February 2001 acquisition of prepaid mobile services specialist Corsair Communications, based in Palo Alto and Irvine, meant Lightbridge had two offices in California ‹ in addition to its Burlington headquarters and its software development center outside Denver.

Nearly 100 employees were affected, though most were offered the option of relocating to Irvine, the company said. Many will do so, while others will leave Lightbridge.

Lynne Smith, Lightbridge's director of corporate communications, said this was a planned event based on the company's business needs, rather than a response to the economic downturn.

"This wasn't about taking hits," Smith said. "We are still quite profitable. This was a real business decision."

The overhead associated with keeping the additional office open was an inefficient burden on the company, Smith said, and bringing together staff who perform similar functions will help move Lightbridge toward its renewed focus on mobile business services.

"We are a conservatively managed company," Smith said, emphasizing that Wall Street's response to the consolidation was positive.

Analyst Iain Gillott of iGillott Research said the company was making a smart move, and was actually surprised at the timing of the rearrangement. "I thought they were going to do this sooner," Gillott said.

He differentiated Lightbridge from startups and equipment companies that have taken big hits recently. Instead, he said, Lightbridge gets much of its revenue from commissions and royalties when people activate mobile phones, and also through the company's involvement in credit checks and fraud prevention methods used by mobile carriers.

Gillott said that mobile phone usage and subscribership continues to climb, especially in the area of prepaid service, which is a major focus for Lightbridge.

Lightbridge does face some obstacles, Gillott said, primarily in the way the market is shifting toward mobile business in addition to mobile telephone services. "They have to shift their strategy to deal with that," he said, adding that Lightbridge has been pigeonholed by the industry and needs to break out of those preconceptions.

He said the company has a good chance to do that, with a good reputation and strong services.

"They do what they do very well," Gillott said.