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Motorola Acquiring Symbol

The Fortune 100 firm has signed a definitive merger agreement, with a total value of approximately $3.9 billion, to buy Symbol Technologies, one of the largest suppliers of RFID hardware.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Presently, the RFID tags and interrogators Symbol sells make up less than 2 percent of its total revenue. In the Form 10-Q Symbol filed with the SEC on Aug. 2, the company said it generated $8.4 million in revenue from RFID products during the three-month period ending June 30 of this year. It generated $453 million in total revenue during that same time period. Best known in the retail industry for its handheld bar-code scanners, the 30-year-old firm entered the RFID market in 2004 with its purchase of privately held RFID hardware provider Matrics, which it purchased for $230 million (see Symbol Acquires Matrics). The company suffered a major accounting scandal and the replacement of most upper management in 2004. It was also embroiled with RFID hardware rival Intermec in a number of lawsuits over intellectual property, starting in 2004. All of the suits have since been resolved (see Intermec, Symbol Resolve Outstanding IP Disputes).

In the SEC filing, Symbol said its RFID-related revenue had dropped 2.7 percent for the April-to-June 2006 quarter, compared with the same quarter in 2005, from $8.7 million to $8.4 million. Furthermore, it had dropped 7.9 percent for the six-month period of January to June 2006, compared with the same period in 2005, from $16.9 million to $15.5 million. Anthony Bartolo, vice president and general manager of the Symbol Wireless Infrastructure Division, told RFID Journal in August that the revenue drop-off was linked to the institution of RFID tagging mandates from major retailers Wal-Mart and Target. Hundreds of suppliers to these retailers had purchased RFID gear in preparation for the mandate deadlines starting in January 2005 and were holding off on purchasing more hardware. However, he said, Symbol had gained a number of new RFID customers between the first and third quarters of this year. Most of these companies are not under a mandate to use RFID for tracking product shipments to retailers, he added, but rather are interested in deploying the technology for their internal benefit—either for tracking consumable goods to increase supply chain visibility, or for tracking reusable assets.

Just yesterday, Symbol announced its newest RFID product, a mobile RFID EPC Gen 2 interrogator that can be mounted onto forklifts (see Symbol Releases New Gen 2 Interrogator). Symbol has also, in recent months, discussed plans to release what it calls Wireless Next Generation (Wi-NG), a new hardware and platform for consolidating different types of RF networks—Wi-Fi, RFID, VoWLAN (Voice over Wireless LAN), mesh and WiMAX—so businesses could deploy and centrally manage wireless voice, data and infrastructure devices throughout the RF spectrum. The company says it plans to debut the Wi-NG platform by the end of 2006.

According to a Symbol press release, the company will, upon completion of the transaction, become a wholly owned subsidiary of Motorola and the "cornerstone" of Motorola's Networks and Enterprise business. Motorola says it intends to maintain Symbol's Holtsville, N.Y., headquarters.

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