A bet-the-company gamble that paid off big time when ''optical networking'' became Wall Street's latest mania vaulted NetOptix of Natick to the top of The Globe 100 list of stock performers, with shares increasing in value 35 times over the year ended March 31.
Ralf Faber heads a firm whose shares rose in value thirty-fivefold in 12 months. (Globe Staff Photo / Bill Greene)
From the end of March 1999, when it was a floundering technology company dabbling ineffectually in several markets, to the end of March 2000, when it was focused like a laser beam on optical telecommunications, NetOptix stock exploded from $4.88 a share to $171.75.
And along the way, optics giant Corning Inc. announced Feb. 14 that it loved NetOptix technology so much it wanted to buy the 150-person company for $2.1 billion, a deal scheduled to close this month.
NetOptix, which recently moved from Sturbridge to Natick, was formerly known as Galileo Corp. and had operations in defense contracting and medical devices, which it dumped last year to go full speed into optical devices.
''The predecessor was essentially bankrupt, operating in several diverse markets with no market leadership in any of them, no cash, and being run by a temporary crisis manager,'' said company president Ralf T. Faber, a German engineer brought in last year by investor Gerhard Andlinger of New York to engineer the company's turnaround.
NetOptix makes tiny devices that can carry up to 160 different signals over a single strand of fiber, allowing telecommunications carriers to cope with an explosion in Internet traffic without having to rewire the continent. The company also has a plant in Keene, N.H., that makes diamond devices for producing super-smooth optical gear.
NetOptix began volume production in December, and Faber sees more good things ahead for the company, which is to be renamed Corning NetOptix. ''There is still a huge worldwide demand-supply gap for this product.''
PETER J. HOWE