Aastra - Another Canadian Bright Light

Following my post the other day about MTS Allstream, I wanted to highlight another Canadian company that's on a roll these days. That company is Aastra, and I've blogged about them in the past. This is a company that has slowly built up a strong position in the IP telephony market, via both organic growth and a series of acquisitions, particularly in Europe. Aastra is one of a handful of Canadian telecom players that is publicly-traded and truly has a global reach. I know, this sounds a lot like another Canadian company that used to be a stock market darling, and if the truth be known, among Canadian telecom equipment vendors, I think Aastra is now poised to be what Nortel used to be.

Furthermore, their stock has held up well relative to other tech stocks, with a strong bounceback that has shares trading higher now than before the markets crashed last year. Much of this rides on their Q1 results which came out about 2 weeks ago. Sales took a big hit - down 16% - compared to Q4 2008, but more importantly, they're 56% higher than Q1 a year ago. Add to that rising gross margins, a sustained commitment to R&D, very little debt, and manageable operational expenses, and you have the making of a good growth story.

On the product front, they continue to innovate, and I think that has a lot to do with their success. It's hard to compete directly with the Polycoms, Avayas and Ciscos of the world, but they keep finding ways to add value to their lineup of SIP-based phones. One example is AastraLink RP, which integrates with Microsoft's Response Point, and won a 2008 TMC Product of the Year Award. Another would be ViPr, their touch screen videoconferencing solution which works with most any existing PBX. These are recent examples of how they're attacking specific niches and applications, and have many others in the mix, including Unified Communications, mobility and contact centers.

All told, there's a lot to like about Aastra, and in true Canadian style, they're doing it quietly but effectively. They should be familiar to many of my readers, but maybe not familiar enough, and with the flag-waving I'm doing this week, hopefully that will change now for the better.