Office Hours

Itron could use more visits with Obama

Malcolm Unsworth is the CEO of Itron Inc., a publicly traded company with world headquarters in Liberty Lake. (J. Bart Rayniak)
Malcolm Unsworth is the CEO of Itron Inc., a publicly traded company with world headquarters in Liberty Lake. (J. Bart Rayniak)

Did it make any difference when Itron Inc. CEO and President Malcolm Unsworth met with President Barack Obama in a Rose Garden ceremony last week?

The Itron stock symbol seems to tell the story.On Friday morning, April 30, Itron shares opened at $80.45. That morning Unsworth, with two Itron manufacturing workers, met Obama and listened as the president praised efforts by U.S. firms like Itron in helping meet the pressing needs of a more efficient electric grid.

At 11:40 a.m., shortly after the White House event, shares of Itron hit their recent high point, at $81.75. That's the high price point over the past two years.

Since then the Itron share price has slid southward. As of today, it's trading at $75 and change. To see the earlier Office Hours blog entry on the Rose Garden event, it's here.

Deloris Duquette, who is vice president for sales development and operations at Liberty Lake-based Itron, said the real reason for the spike was the April 28 Q1 financial results.

"We released earnings after the market closed on the 28th and beat expectations by quite a bit and saw a (roughly) $5 uptick in the price on the 29th on very heavy volume."

Right after the earnings report, the Thursday and Friday total volumes of shares traded also soared to more than one million shares, Duquette pointed out.

Duquette added, in an email: "So yes, I think it was primarily results.  I am not saying that the visit did not benefit -- I am saying our strong price and volume has primarily been driven by the positive financial results."

Unsworth had one earlier recent moment of brief fame. On April 19 he made an appearance on the cable show "Mad Money" hosted by Jim Cramer. Cramer said Itron looked ready to move forward and see growth in the wake of federal spending on smart grid initiatives.

Before the show Itron was trading at roughly $74. Following the show, it trended up toward $80. So, to the lay person, the conclusion is that Obama gave Itron a quick infusion of investor confidence. Cramer, a popular TV stock picker, also helped it, putting some wind in its sails until the earnings report came in.

 




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