Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sigma Designs Annual Shareholder Meeting (2010)

Sigma Designs Inc. (SIGM) held its 2010 annual shareholder meeting in its San Jose, California headquarters. CFO Thomas Gay handled the business portion of the meeting, introducing the Board and executive team. VP of Worldwide Sales Sal Cobar handled the informal presentation, which included a slideshow. Chairman of the Board and CEO Thinh Q. Tran was also present.

Mr. Cobar talked about Sigma's status as one of the top providers "of integrated home entertainment chipset solutions." (Sigma's main competitor is Broadcom (BRCM).) The easiest way to describe Sigma is that it's the NVDIA for non-gaming consumer electronics products, i.e., it makes the IC chip that goes into set-top boxes used with numerous consumer devices, from your home security system to your home entertainment system to your DVD player.

Mr. Cobar said that Sigma creates a more "stable environment" for connectivity. This connectivity allows the consumer to integrate numerous home entertainment products. (Note: Sigma's connectivity solutions work on coax, phone lines and power lines.)

For example, Sigma plans on releasing a product that allows consumers to take content from their laptops and project it onto a large television screen. This product, Neo-Vu, will use UWB (ultra wide band) technology to stream content including HDTV from a computer to a television. The computer may be using Wi-Fi or other technology to obtain the content.

Mr. Cobar also mentioned that Sigma recently completed its acquisition of Coppergate, which creates good "synergy" and increases Sigma's sales volumes and ability to scale its technology.

Some slides showed Sigma's FY 2010 net income as $2.5 million on $209 million of revenue. Sigma also has $133 million in cash or cash equivalents, a very high amount for its market capitalization.

In the overall market, 29 million units of IPTV set-top boxes were installed in 2010, and one slide showed that iSuppli, a market research firm, predicts sales of 37 million units in 2011 and 46 million units in 2012. Sigma wants to be on the forefront of this increased demand by powering the "digital home" in three ways: creating the digital family room; the connected home; and the smart home (i.e., energy, security, and entertainment).

Indeed, some Sigma-related products are truly cutting-edge. For example, one device is a combination security system and energy saver. Rather than try to change personal behavior or habits, this product makes energy conservation automatic. No more debating about how to save energy, researching what kind of lightbulb to use, or telling the kids to turn off the lights when you leave the house. When you set this security alarm, the device powers down electronic devices and other energy sources in your home, lowering your monthly energy bill automatically.

Another product tells you when your water pipes are in danger of freezing and automatically shuts down the water flow if a dangerous situation develops. In short, the product prevents burst water pipes and saves you from having to install new pipes in your home, which can be very expensive.

[Note: the products mentioned above use Sigma's Z-Wave technology inside, thus allowing them all to inter-operate, but the actual finished products are manufactured and marketed by members of Sigma's Z-Wave Alliance family including 2Gig technologies (e.g., the alarm panel) and FortrezZ (e.g., the water shut-off valve).]

One interesting piece of lingo: in its presentation, Sigma used the term, "prosumer"--a combination of professional and consumer. I only mention it because I've never heard the term before.

CFO Gay opened the Q&A session after Mr. Cobar's presentation. I asked about content availability. Some of Sigma's home entertainment technology is ahead of its time, such as 3D movies. It's true the technology is there, but if there are only ten or twenty movies that incorporate 3D technology, how quickly can the market grow? Mr. Cobar said that several years ago, he had been working with HDMI televisions, and the exact same question came up, i.e. "Where's the content?" In a play on the better mousetrap, he said, "If you build the ecosystem, the content will come." He also contended that people don't want to go back to the old/standard way of watching television, so at some point, these new technologies will become mainstream just like digital TV and HDTV.

Mr. David Lynch, VP and General Manager of the Media Processor Group, also pointed out that Sigma is set up to handle all coding and DXP sources, i.e., it doesn't matter what the standard is, Sigma can handle it. CFO Gay lauded Sigma's ability to adapt, saying that the "majority of [Sigma's] engineering talent is software-based," meaning that Sigma can adapt its software to work with any hardware.

I mentioned that a financial analyst had predicted Sigma's FY2011 EPS to be $1.17/share, which is significantly higher than the FY2010 $.09/share. CFO Gay indicated that he could not comment on analyst predictions, but the analyst might be relying on "pro forma" or non-GAAP earnings, which don't include certain charges, such as stock option expenses, amortization expense related to acquisitions and other lesser adjustments.

Another shareholder questioned the size of Sigma's Board of Directors, saying it was too small. He also said that having the same three Board members on the audit and compensation committees might present a conflict of interest. CFO Gay responded that the current Board system has "worked very effectively for" Sigma, and Sigma also relies on external compensation studies and outside experts, not just internal sources.

Overall, Sigma seems to be on the cutting edge of consumer electronic, energy, and security products. Let's hope the consumer catches up.

Disclosure: I own an insignificant number of Sigma (SIGM) shares.

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