UUV Aquabotix IPO closes oversubscribed
On 20 April, 2017, UUV Aquabotix Ltd (Aquabotix) announced that it was undertaking an initial public offering (IPO) on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The maximum subscription under the IPO had been set at A$7,000,000 (approximately US$5,500,000). The maximum subscription was substantially exceeded in the IPO, and the IPO has now closed substantially oversubscribed. Investors will be advised of the degree (if any) to which their applications for shares have been scaled back, in the coming days.
Durval Tavares, Aquabotix’s CEO, commented “Following the commencement of the ASX trading, Aquabotix will be the first and only dedicated underwater drone publicly-traded company globally. The level of interest in the industry and in our company that has been shown by institutional and retail investors in Australia and internationally during the IPO has validated the six years of work that have gone into placing Aquabotix into this leadership position. We look forward to building on our recent substantial growth in this nascent and rapidly-developing industry, utilizing the proceeds from this successful IPO.”
UUV Aquabotix Ltd (Aquabotix) is a unique and established underwater robotics company. It manufactures commercial/industrial grade Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (also known as “UUVs” and “underwater drones”) and commercial/industrial networked underwater cameras. Aquabotix’s four product lines (and ten product models) are highly differentiated from the limited competition. They are simple to use, highly functional, and inexpensive. Importantly, Aquabotix is one of very few companies globally with a “hybrid” UUV solution, which is capable of both autonomous and remote human operation.
Unlike most of its purported competition, Aquabotix’s products are not just a concept. Aquabotix has shipped approximately 350 underwater drones since sales commenced in 2011. Its sales were approximately A$1,100,000 (US$800,000) in the calendar 2016, up approximately 80% relative to the calendar 2015. Industry analysts have estimated that the addressable market Aquabotix operates in will be approximately US$4 billion in 2020.
UUVs are used in a number of industries – defence, law enforcement, public safety, marina and boat underwater inspection, marine inspection and construction, port security, pipeline inspection, aquaculture, potable water management, and research and marine biology. Customers who have purchased Aquabotix’s products include BP, ConEdison, Duke Energy, Broadspectrum, California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS), Pittsburgh Tank & Tower Group, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
In the defence industry in particular, Aquabotix plans to build on its past orders from the U.S. Navy. On 5 December 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it planned to invest as much as US$3 billion in an effort to build and field UUVs for surveillance operations. This is particularly relevant given that the U.S. Defense Science Board has recently publicly recommended that the Navy adopt commercial grade assets and deploy “larger numbers of low-cost assets” in the undersea domain, where, according to the Defense Science Board, “quantity has a quality of its own.” A recent Bloomberg Government article has specifically singled out Aquabotix’s and one other company’s products as the kind of commercial products that may be relevant to this doctrine of commercial product adoption in the unmanned Navy space.
Aquabotix’s board and management team include high profile industry executives, including:
- Durval Tavares (CEO and founder), formerly with the United States Naval Undersea Warfare Center and then Fidelity Investments (where he was a senior executive in product delivery),
- Peter James (Chairman), the current chairman of the boards of nearmap Ltd (ASX:NEA), Macquarie Telecom Group (ASX:MAQ) and DroneShield Ltd (ASX:DRO),
- Jay Cohen, a former Chief of Naval Research (United States Navy) and former U.S. Department of the Navy Chief Technology Officer, and
- Brendan Martin, a former senior strategy executive at Broadspectrum Ltd (ASX:BRS), a global services company recently acquired by Ferrovial Servicios for approximately A$1.24 billion.