Sunday, June 8, 2008

Insituform Technologies

Now THAT is a cleverly named company. Insituform.

At first blush, it seems almost a random collection of syllables, like the "speaking in tongues" of Pentacostals.

A closer inspection might break it down into "in situ form," where the first two words are the Latin expression meaning "at the place."

The name, then, is a perfectly apt one for what Insituform does. It repairs pipes, such as potable water delivery pipes. It does so of course while the pipes are still in place, and it uses a process it patented in 1977, the (trenchless) cured-in-place-pipe process.

Here's how it works.

The patent for the CIPP process, by the way, expired in 1994.

Anyway, the company lives on despite the passage of the originating IP into the public doman. Insituform held its 2008 annual meeting on May 19, and it announced the results on May 27. One of the five nominees of a dissident slate has been elected to its board.

The lucky newcomer is Nickolas W. Vande Steeg. Mr. Vande Steeg has an appropriate resume: he received a bachelors degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of California, Irvine in 1968. He went back to school in the 1980s to study business, getting an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University.

The company has had a tough couple of years -- Mr. Vande Steeg and the other nominees of the dissident slate (including one former Senator, Alfonse D'Amato) were concerned that its stock price was headed ... well ... down the pipes.

Vande Steeg alone likely won't be able to make much of a dent in company management. But both sides are making all the appropriate kiss-and-make-up noises.

I've brought all this up because Insituform seems to me to be in a fascinating business. Fresh water is the new petroleum. And though when we think of making a profit off of the human physiological demand for fresh water we probably think first of the company's that supply the stuff, second of company's in filtration, the pipe maintenance and repair niche seems in some ways a smarter play.

And personally, if I were a shareholder, I'd be rather happy that D'Amato isn't on the board.

Finally, consider this a shout-out to my homeboyz at HedgeWorld. We've got a new company blog which goes by the name "HedgeWorld's Alternative Reality."

Check it out.

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