SPI Lasers sets sights on London stock exchange

Fiber laser specialist SPI Lasers is seeking admission to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Fiber laser specialist SPI Lasers is seeking admission to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange. At the launch, estimated to be in late October or early November, “SPI Lasers plc” will become the new holding company of the Southampton Photonics group, which includes both UK and US companies. Apart from its manufacturing facility in Southampton, the Group has sales offices in San Jose, Detroit, Paris, and Munich; an established network of distributors; and an applications center in Los Gatos, CA.

Established as Southampton Photonics Inc, SPI Lasers was formed as a start-up company from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) of the University of Southampton in June 2000. At the time it was claimed that the initial investment of £37 million made SPI the largest university spin-out in the UK. The company built on the university’s track record in the design and manufacture of fiber lasers and fiber-optic components and kept close links with the ORC. Originally specializing in telecom applications, a new management team appointed in 2002 shifted the focus of the company to producing lasers for a wide variety of market sectors and applications. Today SPI manufactures continuous-wave and modulated lasers for drilling, cutting, and welding and pulsed fiber lasers for marking.

The AIM is targeted at smaller but growing businesses. According to SPI Lasers’ CEO David Parker, that growth is exactly what the company has in mind. He anticipates rapid growth for the second half of 2005 and for 2006 as adoption of the core products expands. Flotation will provide working capital. Using Laser Focus World 2005 Annual Review figures, Parker estimates the worldwide material manufacturing or material-processing market at US$1.5 billion, of which approximately half is addressable by the Group’s current product offerings.

“The optical fibre-laser market is growing strongly in response to rapid, ongoing developments in manufacturing,” Parker said. “Given the valuable efficiencies and significant cost savings involved, we see this trend continuing. We believe the next growth phase will be particularly strong, and we see compelling evidence in our current deal flows. Based on the response to our offering by our established customers, we are confident and are positioning the Group to exploit this opportunity.”

To date the Group has been financed by venture capital companies, including Amadeus Capital Partners, Advent Venture Partners, Interwest and Sevin Rosen. The university is no longer a major share holder but still benefits from royalties generated by the company.

- Bridget K. Marx

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