MARCH 27, 2008 By Stephen Hardy -- GigOptix LLC (search for GigOptix), which has been on an expansion spree as it reinvents itself from its former life as iTerra Communications, has made another move to enlarge its technology portfolio. The company has announced plans to merge with publicly traded Lumera Corp. (search for Lumera), a maker of polymer-based modulators. The newly created company, GigOptix Inc., will assume Lumera's listing on NASDAQ under a symbol that has yet to be revealed.
According to Dr. Avi Katz, chairman and CEO of both the LLC and Inc. versions of GigOptix, the merger with Lumera represents another step forward in his quest to turn GigOptix into a one-stop shop for the "electronic engines" used in optical networking components, subsystems, and systems. Katz says that Lumera's polymer material expertise will prove immediately beneficial for emerging 40-Gbit/sec and higher-speed requirements, where lithium niobate and indium phosphide begin to struggle to meet modulation requirements efficiently.
Lumera, founded in 2000, currently offers modulators for 20-, 40-, and 100-Gbit/sec applications. The devices require lower drive voltages and suffer less optical loss than modulators made from conventional materials, Lumera asserts. Lumera was not the only company working in this vein; Lightwave Logic announced yesterday that it is about to launch production of a prototype polymer-based optical modulator in collaboration with Photon-X.
Katz sees potential to extend polymer use to other devices, with waveguides and, eventually, a photonic switch feasible goals in his opinion. He also believes the material could be used to develop devices for consumer electronics applications.
In addition to its work in optical modulators, Lumera also had pursued devices for life sciences applications. This work will be shut down, he said.
The upcoming merger with Lumera and the subsequent transformation into a public company will represent a milestone for GigOptix. The company changed its name from iTerra last fall, formally debuting at ECOC in Berlin. At the time, Katz said his goal was to broaden the company's product line from its core 10-Gbit/sec ultra-long-haul and submarine devices to include ICs for shorter-reach and higher speed applications. To that end, bankrolled in large part by a significant infusion of cash from private investor DBSI Group and Silicon Valley Bank, the company has expanded both its product line and its technical resources. The deal with Lumera follows closely on the heels of the acquisition of Helix Semiconductors, which GigOptix completed in January. The company, which now operates as GigOptix-Helix AG, added amplifiers, limiting amplifiers and VCSEL drivers for short-reach and parallel applications and silicon material expertise to the overall GigOptix portfolio.
Katz says that the transformation from a private to a public company should not significantly limit the ability of GigOptix to combine internal and external growth strategies.
In addition to Katz as CEO, executives for GigOptix Inc. include Mike Forman, who will retain his GigOptix CFO title. Peter Biere, CFO of Lumera, will become the general manager of the Lumera division at GigOptix, and Raluca Dinu, former Lumera vice president of electro-optics, will serve as vice president of Lumera product development.
The 100% stock transaction is subject to regulatory and Lumera shareholder approvals and is expected to close early in the third quarter of 2008. If the merger proceeds as planned, DBSI LLC will become the new company's largest shareholder.