Itron Inc. on Tuesday announced a return to profitability and a tentative agreement with the world’s largest maker of metering equipment that should improve the Spokane company’s fortunes in Europe.
The memorandum of understanding with Schlumberger calls for the joint sale of automatic meter-reading equipment compatible with technology developed by both companies.
The system will be based on Itron’s radio meter technology.
Itron President Johnny Humphreys said Schlumberger’s service and reputation is unmatched in Europe.
“We believe the combined product lines of Itron and Schlumberger will offer the European customer unparalleled choice of AMR solutions and technology to address the issues that lie ahead, including deregulation,” he said.
The president of Schlumberger’s Systems & Services Division, Mario Galletto, said the compatibility of the two product lines will provide economical solutions for customers and a foundation for future product development.
Schlumberger is the largest maker of meters for the utility industry. The New York-based company employs 60,000 worldwide and reported revenues of $9 billion in 1996.
Itron technology allows utilities to read meters using hand-held, mobile or fixed-base networks. The company has shipped more than 10 million meter modules to almost 300 utilities worldwide from plants in the United States, Europe and Australia.
Spokeswoman Mima Scarpelli said relatively few meters in Europe are read remotely, but she added that the combination of Schlumberger and Itron should accelerate the shift to that technology.
Schlumberger will likely start the move by buying Itron modules to install in its meters, Scarpelli said. Long-term, the company will likely make and install the modules under a licensing agreement with Itron.
The positive earnings announced Tuesday were the first since the second quarter of 1996.
For the quarter ended Sept. 30, the company reported net income of $1.6 million, or 11 cents per share, compared with a loss of $4.5 million, or 45 cents per share, for the same period a year ago.
So far this year, Itron has lost $2.3 million, or 16 cents per share, compared with net income of $837,000, or 6 cents per share, the first nine months of 1996.
Quarterly revenues jumped 51 percent to $58.4 million, helped in large part by the shipment of modules ordered in the first half of the year and work on a large contract for the state of California.
“Our third-quarter results reflect our focus on controlling spending during a time in which we continue to invest in new products,” Humphreys said.
Order backlogs for the next year and beyond are both records.
Itron employs 1,200, about half of those in Spokane.
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