This $500 million dollar ASX-listed company has no product
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Audio Pixels Holdings is worth almost $500 million, but has no product or delivery date.
For the past 11 years or so, Audio Pixels (ASX:AKP) has been developing a chip for a new kind of digital speaker that can deliver boom-box sound in a mobile phone.
An initial ‘wafer’ — a silicon chip which uses MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) technology — has been plagued by production delays over the last year. A May deadline blew out to an August deadline which became no deadline.
To top it off, Audio Pixel’s half-year accounts this week showed it had $3.4 million in cash after spending $1.4 million and booking just $43,000 in revenue from unnamed sources.
Yet its shares are worth $18.40.
The leader of the expedition, Fred Bart, is a man for which the term “colourful business history” was coined.
The former professional poker player has been involved with at least six corporate collapses and has fingers in three pies right now: an Israeli cancer R&D company, a tech company that deals with space trash, and Audio Pixels, of which his wife Cheryl Bart is a director.
Mr Bart told Stockhead he has interests in more than 30 others.
Stockhead could find no analysts who had covered the company, or were willing to speak about it, but Mr Bart is a persuasive man.
Following very positive media coverage in 2014 and 2016, where the words “revolutionary” and “world’s first” were mentioned, the share price spiked to $14.10 — then $32.89.
The latter price fell away rapidly after the 2016 July quarterly report, which noted cash holdings of $7.5 million but zero revenue.
Mr Bart says getting the manufacturing process right is holding things up.
Two manufacturers found problems in the process, which led to less than perfect wafers, in December and again in July this year. After the last delay, Mr Bart declined to forecast further production deadlines.
“We’re having to iron out certain manufacturing problems along the way,” Mr Bart said. “We don’t anticipate any other hiccups, but why put your head in a noose if you don’t have to.”
The drawn-out timeline to production, Mr Bart says, is because making a MEMS device takes 10 years and Audio Pixels is paying via capital raisings, tapping the market twice via equity placements and once via a convertible note.
They’ve raised $16.4 million since 2012.
When it’s done the MEMS speaker could be a world-changer, as companies jump on board the biggest audio speaker innovation since its invention in the late 1800s.
The technology will produce directional sound — meaning you won’t need headphones when you listen to music on your phone.
Mr Bart notes that audiophiles will pay a lot of money for good quality sound. Branded earbuds can move for hundreds of dollars.
“Significantly more non-disclosures” have been signed since 2016, when the company said it had totted up 50.
But they’re not the only game in town. Usound and STElectronics in the US are doing the same thing.
“If we are successful — and I think we will be — in manufacturing it, the company will be worth a lot of money.”
But without a production deadline and as development of the company’s one product heads into a twelfth year, shareholders may become wary of promises that don’t include the calming sound of revenue flowing into aural orifices.