Aether buys some assets of truck-tracking firm

Wireless company gains systems to keep tabs on fleets

March 19, 2002|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Aether Systems Inc., the Owings Mills wireless technology company, said yesterday that it has bought some of the assets of a Texas wireless business for $15 million, adding three items to its chest of products.

The company also said yesterday that it would serve more than 400 new customers as part of the deal and released revenue forecasts for the first half of the year that include income from those customers.

Aether said it bought the assets and licenses from @Track Communications Inc. for $15 million - $3 million in cash, $1 million of which will be held in escrow and given to @Track over the next year; and $12 million in a note payable in stock or cash, whichever Aether chooses, over an undisclosed period of time.

"It looks like a very good deal economically for Aether because it's only $3 million cash out of pocket today, and that could potentially be all of the cash they put out," said David Marsh, a research analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey in Arlington, Va.

Aether - which already had some products for the transportation industry - gains a system that allows companies to monitor tractor-trailer fleets, including whether the doors are open or closed and if the trailer is full or empty.

A second product it acquired is a global positioning system that small businesses can use to track vehicles, such as rental vans or utility trucks. The third is a system that allows trucking companies to track things such as billing, truck maintenance and customer service.

Aether said it would also provide customer support for clients using an @Track system to manage fleets of trucks or tractors. Through that system, the trucking company can send messages to its drivers and track the location of the vehicle, said Aether's director of marketing, Steve Werrlein.

There are more than 400 customers using more than 25,000 of the tracking devices already, Aether said in a news release.

Aether will serve those 400 customers if, for instance, the product needs repairs, Werrlein said. The products will be used over @Track's wireless network, and Aether will reimburse the Texas company for costs, such as the price of airtime, associated with customers' using the product, the company said.

As part of the deal Aether will gain an undisclosed number of @Track employees to manage the new products and services.

"This deal basically gives us the opportunity to serve new customers with a proven technology," Werrlein said.

Aether estimated that with the money coming in from these new customers, its overall revenue would be $23 million in the first quarter and $27 million in the second quarter of this year. Revenue is expected to keep growing through the fourth quarter, the company said.

"In terms of a strategic move, I think it's very valuable to them in that they add a captive audience and they significantly grow this business line," Marsh said.

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