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09/28/2012

A Savvy Acquisition of Savi Technology?

In the late 2000s, Savi Technology, an active RFID solutions provider, was among the major beneficiaries of an approximately $430 million US Department of Defense (DoD) contract commonly referred to as “RFID III” (The Company also enjoyed strong growth through earlier announced large DoD RFID contracts). One of the principle objectives of this RFID funding was achieving “In-Transit Visibility” (ITV), which essentially meant establishing real-time insight into the progress and location of various DoD assets (e.g., cargo, personnel, vehicles, equipment, etc.) during their journey through the supply chain—from point of origin to final destination. The DoD selected Savi, along with several other well-known defense contractors (with Lockheed Martin, Savi’s parent company, being key among them), as the primary solution providers for the ITV initiative.

For its part in the contract, Savi Technology provided highly-rugged active RFID tags, which cost upwards of $100 per unit, along with other systems components. In the early days of the RFID III contract, the DoD struggled with best practices in regards to the recycling and reattachment of Savi’s tags to assets (e.g., cargo, intermodal containers) entering or re-entering the supply chain, despite their significant cost and the fact that the tags were reusable and designed for a 5-7 year lifecycle.

Several years into the RFID III contract, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the practices of the DoD in the context of the ITV initiative. Among the findings of this investigation was the fact that significant funds were being squandered on new RFID tags, when the “old” tags could have (and should have) been reused many times over. Ultimately, this GAO revelation materially decreased demand for Savi’s tags and had a correspondingly negative impact on the company’s financial performance, especially on their renewable tag volume business. While Savi did enjoy some success outside the military space, deploying their solutions at a wide number of ports internationally, the company remained challenged by the slow pace of adoption for RFID-enabled cargo tracking and security applications, such as customs inspection.

It was no big secret in the RFID industry that Savi was struggling, and that its parent, Lockheed Martin, was looking to divest the business. Last week Savi announced that they had found a buyer.  The Company was acquired by LaSalle Capital, a private investor group based in Los Angeles. We expect LaSalle will likely seek to revitalize the Company and extend Savi’s presence outside its core historical market of Defense/Military within the US and its Allies to commercial markets. There is no shortage of potential avenues the company could explore to drive future growth with its current offerings, but we think RTLS and other forms of “RFID+” solutions (e.g., active RFID plus sensors) are among the most feasible options for Savi to pursue moving forward.

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