CEO of Interactive-Whiteboard Leader Resigns as Earnings Plummet

The global chief executive officer of Promethean World, one of the leading interactive- whiteboard companies, will step down this fall after the England-based company posted massive losses over the past six months.
Our Digital Education blog posted the news yesterday:

Promethean World has suffered a 22 percent loss in revenue over the past six months, [and] the company’s chief executive officer, Jean-Yves Charlier, has announced that he will step down in October.
Jim Marshall, current head of North American markets for the company, will take over Charlier’s position as CEO. According to Insider Media, the company has announced that it will reduce its operating base by up to 25 percent from 2011 levels to compensate for the loss in revenue.

Trouble started during the first half of 2011, when revenue dropped 12 percent and, though the company was profitable, its net income had dropped 65 percent. A push for global markets was expected to turn those trends around and decrease the company’s reliance on unpredictable American markets, but the losses seemed only to grow.

In addition to the revenue declines recently reported, Promethean’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, dropped considerably, from a £12.6 million profit ($19 million) in the first half of 2011 to a £0.3 million loss ($470,000) so far this year.

In its interim financial results released yesterday (embedded below), Charlier attributed the losses to struggling education markets, particularly in the United States.

“In the U.S., which accounts for over 50% of our revenues, the up-lift in sales in the peak selling period, which starts in June, did not materialise at the levels we anticipated and sales were down 32” percent, he writes in the release.

While Promethean will be making drastic cuts to its operating costs, it is establishing a support center in China and has been promoting a new contract earned in Mexico, reflecting Charlier’s claim last year that Promethean’s U.S. sales will go from previous levels around 70 percent of its business to less than half.

Promethean opened on the London Stock Exchange in March 2010 trading at 198 pence ($3.12) and is now trading at 24 pence ($0.39). SMART Technologies, the leader in interactive-whiteboard technology is faring better, but not by much. After opening at $16.62 on the NASDAQ in June 2010, it is now trading at $1.70 per share. SMART will release its fiscal 2013 first quarter results on Aug. 2. Last year, revenue dropped from $795 million to $746 million (by comparison, Promethean reported $351 million in revenue last year).

Tough economic conditions can surely hurt a business that counts on classroom technology. But my colleague Ian Quillen asked an interesting question in his article on the “whiteboard wars” in February: “Do classrooms really need them in the age of iPads?”

I’m curious: School-level folks out there, are you finding less use for interactive whiteboards?

Education Week: Promethean World June 2012 Interim Financial Results (Text)

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