Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Will Affirmative Action Programs in government-sector procurement be eliminated in some states in the future?

Here’s the beginning of an article, authored by Lyle Denniston on April 22, 2014, in which Mr. Denniston expressed his opinions about the Supreme Court’s very recent decision on an Affirmative Action case:

“Casting aside a three-decade-old constitutional theory that allowed racial minorities to protect public policies that favor equality, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a state’s voters have the power to stop officials from using race to shape government programs. The lead opinion expressed the confident belief that the Court was only encouraging a useful civic conversation about race, hopefully free of rancor.”
“By a vote of six to two (with Justice Elena Kagan not taking part), the Court cleared the way for voters elsewhere in the nation to opt to put an end to so- called “affirmative action” policies — as seven states now do. While the ruling focused on the use of race in selecting new students for public colleges, it presumably also would permit voters to end race-conscious policies in hiring of state and local employees and in awarding public contracts.
You can read the full article at this link:

Blog Publisher’s Comments:
I previously expressed my views about Affirmative Action programs in a post I put up on the blog about 2 ½ years ago:
When a reprographics services BID or RFP – in the government sector - is designated as a “set-aside” for MBE, DBE, or WBE certified businesses, effectively excluding non-certified (and non-certifiable) businesses from participating in the BID or RFP, that, generally speaking, reduces competition and, again generally speaking, means that taxpayers are going to wind up paying more than might otherwise have been the case. 
If the BID/RFP isn’t a “set-aside” and, instead, provides a “bid preference”, meaning that a certified vendor can bid higher than a non-certified vendor and still be awarded the BID (or RFP), that also means that taxpayers are going to foot a higher bill than would otherwise have been the case. 
And, when a government agency hires a design/build or A/E/C team to design/construct a large project, let’s say it’s a new airport terminal or a courthouse, and requires the A/E/C team to spend at least a certain specific percentage of the total-project-spend with MBE, DBE, or WBE vendors (this, refers to “quotas” or “goals”), which, in the A/E/C space, often prohibits non-certified businesses from participating, at all, in these types of projects, that, too, drives up the cost to taxpayers.

So, my conclusion is that, if taxpayers don’t want to pay more than would otherwise be the case they have to vote into office representatives who will sponsor and/or vote for bills that ban Affirmative Action programs in their states.  I don’t see this happening in my lifetimes, even though, gee-whiz, everyone seems to complain and whine about the cost of government.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Service Point UK placed in "Administration"; Sale Imminent?

Blog Publisher’s Comments:

The e-mail you see below was received, this morning, from a source in the UK.

“Administration” in the UK is pretty much the same thing, if not exactly the same thing, as “Chapter 11 Bankruptcy” in the US.  The UK term “pre-pack sale” is pretty much the same as the term “prepackaged sale”.  So, Service Point UK has been put into Administration, and it sounds like that was done to set up the business to be sold easily and very quickly.

Hello Joel, 

It's been confirmed that Service Point UK was put into administration on Friday. Heard about it on Friday night but only got official confirmation just now. 

It sounds like it will be a pre-pack sale, but that's still to be confirmed. 

Here's what I have thus far:

Will be interesting if Paragon Group does buy it, seems to be a new area for them to get into. 

Best regards

This is the company, the likely purchaser of Service Point UK, mentioned in the article:

I’d like to compliment the author of the article in PrintWeek; excellent article, very well written.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


UPDATE:  As of this afternoon (May 1st), I've not received even a single guess.  And that's in spite of the fact that this post has had 258 page-views since it was first posted.  As a further hint, the company's (see contest question below) market-cap, as of this minute is in between $32.0 and $33.0 BIL.  If you know how to use Google Finance's 'stock screener' feature, you will come up with the correct answer in less than 5 minutes.

This is the “new normal” way to become a billionaire???

I’ve been writing, off an on, about Textura Corp (NYSE: TXTR) since before it went public last year.  Textura, a company operating in the A/E/C Industry SaaS space, has yet to report a profit, but, in spite of that, had, at one point last year, a market cap of over $1 billion.  More recently (after a scathing report from Citron Research), TXTR has come closer to earth, recently trading in the low $20.00 range (after hitting a high of $45.63 last October 1st.)  Note that at $20.00 per share, TXTR has a market cap of $496 million.  To put that market cap into proper perspective, TXTR’s revenues were $12 million for the quarter ended 12/31/13.  Uh huh, that’s correct, a company that achieved $12 mil in sales for a quarter is valued at around $496 mil.  Hmmmm.  Well, in recent years, it’s been fairly common for tech-related companies to go public without any earnings and without any near-term prospects of earnings.  On a message board today (Yahoo Finance, TXTR), someone suggested that TXTR is following another company’s footsteps – to achieving significant market cap.  Apparently, in this game - building market cap in the SaaS space - the more you lose, the more you’re worth.

Now, as to the CONTEST, the first person who e-mails me the name of the company whose numbers appear below wins a $100.00 check for his/her favorite charity.  (Disclaimer:  Ben Stein and I graduated from the same high school.)

To which company do these interesting numbers belong?

E-mail your answer to joel.salus@mac.com

-the company is listed on NYSE
-the company is in the SaaS business
-some reprographers use this company's SaaS product

In Millions of USD
year-end year-end year-end year-end
1/31/14 1/31/13 1/31/12 1/31/11
Revenue  $4,071.00  $3,050.20  $2,266.54  $1,657.14
Operating Income  $(286.07)  $(110.71)  $(35.09)  $97.50
price per share
at end of fiscal year  $60.53  $43.03  $29.20  $32.28
Market Cap (prox) $36.9 BIL $24.3 BIL $15.8 BIL $17.6 BIL

3D Systems acquires Xerox Corporation’s product design, engineering and chemistry group

The following paragraph comes from an in-depth article (about the subject reported below) that appeared in Larry Hunt’s Wide-Format News, April 2014 edition.  (You need to be a subscriber to that newsletter to read the full article.)

3D Systems and Xerox recently announced a transaction designed to leverage both companies’ 3D printing capabilities to accelerate growth and cement leadership positions. 3D Systems entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Xerox Corporation’s Wilsonville, Oregon product design, engineering and chemistry group and related assets for $32.5 million in cash. This transaction was expected to close before the end of last year, subject to fulfillment of certain customary conditions. This agreement expands the- decade and-a-half long collaboration between the companies that has already produced 3DS’ best-selling ProJet series 3D printers. As part of this agreement, 3DS expects to add more than 100 experienced Xerox engineers and contractors who are specializing in product design and materials science to its global R&D team

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Staples to Offer 3D Printing Services

I received this e-mail from a friend yesterday afternoon:  “I caught this on Bloomberg today - you may have seen the article or discussion already. I hope all is well with you.” And, here’s the article, up on Forbes.com, by Gene Marks:

Will 3D Printing Be Staples' Field of Dreams?
“If you build it, they will come.”
It worked for Ray Kinsella.  Maybe, just maybe, it’ll work for Staples SPLS +2.03% too.  The office supply company is now bringing their brand recognition to the field of 3D printing.  They’re building it.  And now they’re hoping that entrepreneurs will respond. Staples is a client of mine and I was paid to moderate a panel last week in New York about this new offering.
3D printing is not new.  The problem is that to date it’s not been very sexy and no one is familiar with the players.
Take for example ProtoCAM, a small company near Allentown, Pennsylvania who is also a client of mine.  Since 1994, they’ve been creating 3D prototypes of parts that their customers then use in their final designs of production equipment. It’s not very sexy work.  ProtoCAM’s engineers and technicians use complex computer applications and very expensive, custom made machines that oftentimes take days to pop out molds and models.  They do this using cast urethane models, rapid injection molding, high-quality metal castings and roto-casting.  “We’ve always been at the leading edge using the latest stereolithography resins to provide our customers with the best possible alternatives for their rapid prototyping needs,” the company’s website says.
Look, I didn’t say this was exciting, did I?  And if you really want an alternative to counting sheep, try visiting one of the many Design2Part shows around the country that feature the products and services of other companies just like ProtoCAM.  Or checkout the next 3D Printer World Expo which is scheduled for 2015 in Burbank, California, following a successful event this past month in New York.  You’ll find that many of these companies are, like ProtoCAM, not exactly newcomers to the world of 3D printing.  They’ve been doing this for years.
We’re told that soon people will be “printing” houses, fingers, ears, parts for your car, parts for your factory equipment, food, pharmaceuticals.  3D printing will be creating new industries, generating billions in wealth and forever changing our lives. But even though 3D printing is projected to be a $10.8 billion industry by 2021, most of us aren’t yet affected.  So when will 3D printing become as pervasive and commonplace as just…printing?  How can entrepreneurs with an idea but little capital get in on the action?
Enter Staples.  And 3D Systems.
Last week, Staples announced a partnership with 3D Systems DDD -1.93% to provide 3D printing services at two of its retail locations.   Customers can bring their 3D print-ready files to have them printed at Staples’ stores on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, N.Y. and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, Calif.
The idea is this:  there’s no need to buy a 3D printer (they sell those too) just like there’s no need to buy a regular printer, scanner or copy machine. Just come into the service center and Staples will take care of the job for you.  They’ll have the equipment there. They’ll have people who specialize in 3D printing available.  They’ll be ready to go for any of your 3D printing needs, just like they’re ready for any of the jobs you already bring into the copy and print center.  To demonstrate at our panel event, Staples displayed models of phone cases, chess pieces, figurines and jewelry that they can print in the store.
“We believe that literally millions of small businesses and customers could benefit from the technology,” said Damien Leigh, senior vice president of business services for Staples. “We wanted to educate businesses so they can get involved with 3D printing at a fraction of the cost because right now they don’t understand it.”
So give credit where credit is due.  Staples is bringing their brand to 3D printing. The company is investing in this technology.  They’re hoping to expand these services nationwide.  They’re training their people to understand the intricacies of 3D printing.  They’re partnering with a well-known company in the industry. They’re buying equipment and promoting the service.  They’re putting everything into place. Like Ray Kinsella, they’ve built the field.  And now all they need now is is…customers.  Entrepreneurs.  Business people with ideas.
Will they come?  I have no idea.  Where’s James Earl Jones when you need him?
Besides Forbes, Gene Marks writes daily for The New York Times and weekly for Inc.com.

Blog Publisher’s Comment:

Personally, I don’t believe that Staples has done all that good of a job in the Copy/Print business.  It will be very interesting to see if Staples can do a better job with 3D printing services …. but I don’t expect that will be the case.