ENCLOSURE MOLDER CHANNELL SET FOR GROWTH

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Continuing to ride telecommunications' mercurial growth, Channell Commercial Corp. adjusted to a major customer's spending cutback, logged record first-quarter sales and acquired a new division.

Cable operator Tele-Communications Inc. of Englewood, Colo., had accounted for 17.5 percent of Channell Commercial's 1995 sales and 14.9 percent of 1996 sales. Financially troubled TCI has curtailed most orders and not replenished inventory stocking levels.

``We displaced TCI and maintained flow with more product roll-out and more specific targeted account activity,'' William H. Channell Jr., president, said in a telephone interview.

Channell Commercial dominates the market for precision-molded thermoplastic enclosures that house and protect electronics and provide access to transmission systems for cable television operators. Plastics processes at the Temecula, Calif.-based company include injection, structural foam, rotational, transfer and compression molding.

Earlier this year, Channell Commercial acquired the assets of RMS Electronics Inc. of Secaucus, N.J., for $2.5 million. RMS designs and arranges Asian contract manufacturing of radio-frequency passive electronic devices.

RMS private-labels and distributes the outdoor and indoor taps, signal splitters/combiners and power inserts to cable TV operators worldwide. RMS had 1996 sales of about $9 million and, as a Channell division, generated 1997 first-quarter sales of $2 million.

``We expect to reorganize the business and reformulate how that product line comes to market,'' Channell said. ``We intend to put an engineering staff in Temecula that will interface'' with the new division.

Gary M. Napolitano, RMS' president for five years, joined Channell Commercial as a vice president and the division's general manager. RMS employs 22 and has operated a Slough, England, sales office that now includes Channell representatives.

In reaching for more global business, Channell Commercial created sectors to develop markets in Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific and Europe. The intention is ``to concentrate on not only developing broad-band and telecom sales but also power, water, gas and utility business,'' the company said.

A table in Business Week magazine's May 26 issue ranked Channell Commercial as 60th on a list of 100 fast-growing, small, publicly traded corporations. The ranking was based on Channell's three-year results of 24.8 percent in sales growth, 65.5 percent in earnings growth and 31.6 percent in return on invested capital. Channell's shares began trading on the Nasdaq exchange in July, after an initial public offering.

The company had profit of $1.4 million on sales of $12.8 million for the quarter ended March 31. For 1996, profit was $11.1 million on sales of $47.3 million. Channell employed 276 as of Dec. 31.