Business

SLI Systems: the latest company to abandon the NZX

SLI Systems, a search engine software development company which helps online retailers get customers to their sites, has joined the list of companies exiting the New Zealand stock exchange, after being taken over by US-based company ESW.

SLI, a perennial underachiever, which made its maiden profit in 2018, will delist on Thursday after five-and-a-half years on the stock exchange. 

Texas-based ESW crossed the 90 percent threshold needed to mop up the remaining shares on December 19, successfully taking over the Kiwi firm. ESW offered 65 cents a share, or $41.4 million, to buy the firm in October, having already locked up 51 percent from 18 of SLI's 1,500-odd shareholders. The Texan company currently holds 95.9 percent. 

SLI's shares will be suspended from trading on the NZX tomorrow (January 8), and two days later the stock will delist at the close of trading. 

The New Zealand company will hold in trust any outstanding payments for shareholders who haven't completed a transfer by January 18. 

"To ensure that they are paid as soon as possible, SLI encourages shareholders and option-holders who have not accepted ESW’s offer to promptly return the transfer form to ESW," chair Greg Cross said in a statement. 

The offer was a substantial premium to the 30 cents the stock was trading at before ESW made its bid and more than the 37-53 cents-a-share valuation range put on the software firm by Northington Partners. SLI shares ended 2018 at 64 cents, having started the year at just 20 cents. 

SLI has underperformed since listing in 2013, when it raised $27 million at $1.50 a share. Early investors Pioneer Capital and New Zealand Venture Investment Fund sold out of SLI earlier last year at 25 cents a share, ending a decade-long involvement. They injected $1 million into the start-up to help fund its global expansion plans, held 16 percent of SLI before its initial public offering and were among shareholders who sold $12 million of shares into the IPO.  

The New Zealand software-as-a-service firm was on the road to recovery before the ESW offer emerged, reporting a maiden profit last year. In 2017, SLI changed tack to focus on a self-service model where customers can more easily build their own search capabilities as retailers facing the pinch refrained from deploying a number of different technologies at once.

Austin, Texas-based ESW buys and grows software companies, targeting firms with an enterprise value of between US$10 million and US$250 million. It has said it plans to invest in SLI's global business to ensure long-term viability, new product innovation and using its existing top-tier retail relationships to expand the business. The Texan firm will also review SLI's capital structure and replace the chief executive and chief financial officer.

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