That socket you slide your SD or SIM card into? It might have come from Molex. The company is one of the world's largest makers of electronic, electrical, and fiber-optic connectors and switches. Its sockets, cable assemblies, and other products are used in a wide variety of settings, including automobiles, computers, consumer electronics, home appliances, industrial machinery, and telecommunications equipment. Molex sells through distributors and directly to manufacturers that have included Apple, Cisco, Dell, GM, HP, IBM, Nokia, and Panasonic. It operates in more than 40 countries, with Asia/Pacific customers (mostly in China and Japan) accounting for more than 60% of sales.
Telecommunications and infotech are each around a quarter of sales, with telecom typically being the larger of Molex's market. Products for that market are used in mobile phones, networking and transmission equipment, and switches. The infotech market uses Molex's products in personal computers -- from desktops to tablets -- servers, storage, and peripheral equipment.
The consumer market generates nearly a fifth of the company's revenue through products such as digital cameras, televisions, gaming systems, large appliances, and even acoustics. Nearly as large as the consumer market is automotive, requiring connecters and other products for powertrain use, safety electronics, sensors, lighting, infotainment, and other applications. The industrial market is less than 15% of company sales, through settings such as factory automation, food and beverage equipment, alternative energy, and lighting and cables.
Combining to make up less than 5% of sales, markets that Molex is trying to grow are medical, military, and aerospace. Applications include x-ray equipment and imaging and dialysis machines in hospitals.
Besides China (about one-third of sales, including Hong Kong and Taiwan) and Japan (nearly 15%), Molex's clients in Asia/Pacific are also located in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The company's manufacturing operations take place in 40 locations in 16 countries.
Molex's revenues for fiscal 2012 (ended June) slipped 3% to $3.6 billion amidst lingering economic uncertainty in Europe and slackening growth in China. The Americas, however, helped offset it somewhat, with an uptick in business by about 5%. By market, telecommunications products suffered the most, dropping 10%. That relegated it to being the company's second-largest segment, as a 5% increase in infotech products pushed that segment to the front, now standing at more than a quarter of sales.
In telecom, weakened mobile product demand outpaced increases in infrastructure spending. The new mobile product darlings are tablets, which along with servers helped drive the infotech growth. A rebounding of worldwide automobile production helped boost Molex's automotive segment to a 7% increase, while industrial and discretionary spending-driven consumer products fell by 9% and 6%, respectively.
Molex responded to the global economic downturn with corporate reorganizations and a variety of cost-cutting measures -- including layoffs and moving manufacturing operations to lower cost regions outside the US, such as China, Eastern Europe, and Mexico. As the global recession deepened, Molex consolidated smaller plants, focusing instead on larger and more integrated facilities. That focus on larger locations continues so Molex can reap the benefits of economies of scale. A facility in China, for example, measures 1 million square feet.
The company's bigger picture strategies include concentrating on its core markets and looking for adjacent markets closely related to its core, such as medical electronics, solid state lighting, and solar energy. As it doesn't want to stray too far from what it does best, product development is another major focus at Molex. It also must keep a close watch on its manufacturing and supply chain operations and keep them optimized as they relate to the needs and location of its customers.
Product development has typically been how Molex has grown its business, but competition and the speed of developments now make acquisitions an increasingly necessary strategy. In fact Molex plans to make more acquisitions in fiscal 2012 than it has done in the previous two years. While acquisitions have boosted its telecom products, the company is now interested in finding deals that will enhance its reach in medical, military, and industrial markets, as well as bolstering its RF and cable products and niche capabilities. To that end, in late 2012, Molex acquired California-based Affinity Medical Technologies, which produces medical interconnect products.
During fiscal 2010, the company acquired China-based Zhenjiang Tean Telecom & Appliance Co., Ltd., enhancing its global position in the design and manufacture of an array of radio frequency (RF) and microwave products. It bought the active optical cable (AOC) business from Luxtera the following year to expand its product line and customer base. The deal included quad small form factor pluggable 40Gbps Ethernet and InfiniBand products. Luxtera also agreed to supply advanced silicon photonics chip-sets for future Molex products. In December 2011 Molex boosted its high performance cable assembly business with the acquisition of Massachusetts-based Temp-Flex Cable.
The Krehbiel family, including co-chairmen Fred and John Jr., grandsons of Molex's founder, control the company with more than 90% of the Class B voting stock. – less