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Consolidation, Part 2--Is Oclaro consolidation or redistribution?

By Tom Hausken
So Bookham and Avanex finally merged, forming Oclaro . This is a sign that the industry is consolidating, right? Reducing the number of suppliers by one, yes. But it may just amount to moving market share around, and not necessarily to fewer players.

Bookham and Avanex don't have greatly overlapping product lines. And the new management claims it will continue manufacturing parts the way it has been. That is, it will keep the Bookham fabs and its Shenzhen facility but will also keep using Fabrinet as Avanex did.

The company points out that now they have a wider range of products to compete against bigger competitors, like JDS Uniphase and Finisar. I've never fully believed the one-stop-shop argument though. Of course, Cisco and any other customer would like to reduce its list of suppliers. But the customers also want suppliers to be competitive, and they want the best products they can find, provided that the supplier is qualified. Grouping products into one company doesn't necessarily make Oclaro more competitive in those products.


There will certainly be some synergies gained from consolidating various functions, such as procurement and corporate overhead. The figure shows Oclaro's vision of the gains it can make in gross margin from the merger. One of the bigger synergies would be the use of the Bookham fabs to supply chips for Avanex products. This is a change in market share, shifting sales from the former suppliers (such as JDS Uniphase) to Oclaro, possibly improving Oclaro's factory utilization. It might also steal some margin from contract manufacturers.


Source: Oclaro


That may turn out real good for Oclaro, although it doesn't necessarily constitute consolidation if it just spreads market share more evenly among some of the bigger players. Without knowing how it plays out product by product, it could actually increase competition and reduce consolidation in some segments.

Oclaro's CEO Alain Couder notes that the company also gets to spread Bookham's credit line over a new balance sheet that is low in debt and with a nice chunk of cash. That's never a bad thing, for Oclaro. And despite claims to the contrary, the management may make more moves once the excitement has died down. Anything that tips the scales dramatically in Oclaro's favor would essentially increase consolidation, even if the number of suppliers is nominally the same.

This may turn out real good for Oclaro. But I wouldn't call it industry-scale consolidation. Not yet.

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