Carmanah Ready to Flourish

2006 'a big break-out year' for high-tech firm, says CEO

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Evert Pater works on solar-powered obstruction lights that are assembled at Carmanah.
Potting room lead, Evert Pater, works where solar-powered obstruction lights are assembled at Carmanah. CREDIT: Ray Smith, Times Colonist.

Art Aylesworth is not above digging in the corners and backchecking, but the chief executive of Carmanah Technologies Corp. intends for 2006 to be the year he jumps into the goal-scoring race.

On the eve of the high-tech firm's annual general meeting, Aylesworth said the company, which designs and manufactures solar-powered lighting and illumination technology, is poised to have a break-out year.

"The running joke among the executive team is you sometimes feel like you're a Gretzky blocking shots," he said, noting Carmanah has been pre-occupied with integrating after its 2005 acquisition of Soltek Powersource as well as the physical changes of moving into a new facility and the leap it made earlier this year to the Toronto Stock Exchange from the junior Venture Exchange.

"It's all necessary stuff," said Aylesworth, "but it's not what I would call high-speed offence." And offence is what Aylesworth is expected to be passing along during today's AGM at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort.

"I think this is a big break-out year for us," he said. "I expect that quarter over quarter you'll see that reflected in how we do -- the year will get stronger as we go."

That's good news considering the company posted a net loss of $23,000 in the first quarter of 2006, owing largely to a one-time final charge for the Soltek acquisition -- a solar panel and power source company -- and a backlog in manufacturing due to the move to a new facility in Saanich.

"We had to totally disassemble, relocate, and fire back up, test all of the equipment and run samples," Aylesworth said, adding that led to a slew of back orders that could not get processed.

The bottom line is Carmanah did not meet its ideal revenue stream that falls between $15 million to $17 million per quarter.

"We don't want quarters where we do $12-13 million, we don't make much money there," he said.

The company could be expecting a high number of orders if forecasts of an intense storm season in the Gulf of Mexico are accurate.

U.S. forecasters have said as many as six major hurricanes will form in the Atlantic Ocean in 2006, and the storm season could yield 13-16 named storms.

Last fall Carmanah shipped hundreds of solar-powered lights -- coveted for their durability and no-wiring installation -- to the Gulf states to be used for helicopter landing areas and charting submerged parts of the coast and flooded inland regions.

Aylesworth admits they could be busy if the storms roll in as expected, but said that won't have a huge impact on revenues.

"Rushing off a few hundred lights to the Gulf Coast is a relatively small deal. We are the provider the (U.S.) Coast Guard knows and we have a fair amount of finished goods in inventory ready to go, so we are the best phone call to make," he said. "But our revenues won't look much different in a good or bad hurricane year -- it's relatively small sales but it's really important and very high-profile."