9/25/2014Hedge Fund Takes Over Redflex Traffic Systems
Embattled traffic camera company Redflex appoints new CEO as company loses 22 percent of its business.
Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian photo enforcement firm, hopes a change of management will allow the scandal-plagued company to survive. Paul Clark, a "corporate advisor specializing in debt," was appointed chief executive officer today.
Clark comes from Melbourne Water, the state-owned utility rocked by a scandal of its own. Customers were overcharged $300 million, triggering a massive refund for residents last year. Clark will apply the lessons learned in navigating the scandal to a company that has seen one of its directors, Karen Finley, indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery in Chicago, Illinois.
Clark was the choice of Adam Gray, the founder of the New York-based Coliseum Capital Management hedge fund. Gray serves as chairman of the board for Redflex with $27 million in stock, giving Gray a 22 percent stake in the photo ticketing firm.
"As the market for road safety solutions continues to grow globally, Paul has the skills to ensure that Redflex takes full advantage of the opportunities that we face," Gray said in a statement.
Clark will be paid $400,000 a year plus a stock bonus of between $120,000 and $400,000. He serves with directors including John Murphy, former head of the Investec Wentworth Private Equity fund and Michael McConnell, former managing director of Shamrock Capital Advisors. None of the top management at Redflex have experience in traffic safety. Financial expertise will be needed, however, to help Redflex return to profitability. In fiscal 2014, revenue was down 11.5 percent to $121.5 million leaving the company with a net loss of $3.8 million.
Defending against the Chicago bribery investigation cost the company $2.4 million. Being caught underpaying workers in California and settling the New Jersey class action suit cost another $1.5 million. School bus cameras have flopped, costing $4.3 million. The biggest hit of all was the $9.5 million lost from the Chicago red light camera contract, which removed 384 cameras on top of a net loss of 85 cameras in other cities. Overall, Redflex is operating 22 percent fewer cameras than it did last year.
"More than half of the terminating approaches were from California contracts, all of which elected to discontinue their photo enforcement programs," Redflex explained in documents filed with the Australian Securities Exchange. "The resultant reduction in cameras and associated asset write-downs, together with a lack of new installations, has negatively impacted the USA revenue base and profitability.... Redflex continues to face the challenges raised through local voter initiatives and referendums. Citizen initiatives prevented several Redflex contracts being renewed after their terms expired, consistent with industry dynamics."
Troubles were not limited to America. Redflex described the situation in Saudi Arabia as "challenging" and "progressing slowly" in Abu Dhabi. In Malaysia, Redflex won an initial bid to run a speed camera program but lost it due to "negative public opinion."
The company is promising Australian investors that it will break even in the year ahead.