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Rex Bionics hires top UK trade official as new CEO

Rex Bionics hires top UK trade official as new CEO

By Paul McBeth

Aug. 6 (BusinessDesk) - Rex Bionics, the local company which listed on the London Stock Exchange’s growth-orientated AIM market in May, has hired the UK government's trade guru Crispin Simon as its new boss, and brought forward a shift into bigger manufacturing facilities in Auckland.

The London-based company, which builds robotic exoskeletons that allows wheelchair users to walk, yesterday appointed Simon as its new chief executive when announcing its maiden first-half earnings since its reverse takeover of Union MedTech and listing on the AIM market. Simon has been managing director responsible for trade development for UK Trade & Investment since February 2012, and has previously worked in healthcare subsectors including medical technology.

Simon's appointment was one of several executive hires since Rex ramped up efforts for a global roll-out of its robotic exoskeletons, including the appointment of Tracey White to lead the Southern Hemisphere's North Shore-based operating company and Michael Heath as director of manufacturing, based in Auckland. White was previously the general manager of Siemens Healthcare New Zealand, while Heath's last role was at Bombadier in Belfast, Northern Ireland, manufacturing aircraft fuselages.

Rex raised 10 million pounds for a net 8.8 million pounds in its reverse takeover and listing, and had cash of 8.78 million pounds as at May 31, according to its first-half report. It had an operational cash outflow of 906,00 pounds, and share issuance costs of 391,000. The results capture one month of trading from Rex, and show the group made a loss of 1.25 million pounds on revenue of 176,000 pounds.

Of the funds raised in the May placement, Rex said 1.9 million pounds would be used to accelerate sales and marketing of the exoskeletons, 1.7 million pounds for scaling up manufacturing, 1.6 million pounds for research and development, 1.4 million pounds for general and administrative uses, and 2.2 million pounds for working capital.

Rex shifted its manufacturing and research and development into larger premises near Auckland in July, earlier than planned, it said in a statement.

"The move to the new facilities, whilst creating a temporary disruption to current manufacturing output, will enable the company to expand operations to meet its volume production requirements over the next three years without further disruption to manufacture," chairman David Macfarlane said in his report. "As part of the move, the company is implementing sophisticated new enterprise resource planning, production, quality systems and procedures to optimise manufacturing efficiency and ensure regulatory compliance."

The new facilities will let Rex scale up manufacturing, which extended to two exoskeletons a week, which it would then sell for about US$150,000 apiece.

As part of the shift, Rex is introducing new systems to improve its manufacturing efficiency and is embarking on a cost reduction programme to bring down the cost of building over time.

The company has to keep manufacturing based in New Zealand until 2017 as a condition of some $2.9 million it received in government grants to fund its research and development.

Before the transaction, New Zealand-based Rex reported sales of $976,000 in the six months ended Sept. 30 compared to $15,000 in the same period a year earlier, according to its admission document to list on the AIM exchange. It narrowed its net loss in the period to $722,000 from $2.1 million a year earlier. The New Zealand firm made a loss of $2.5 million on sales of $394,000 in the year ended March 31, 2013.

Since the 2011 financial year, Rex raised $4.1 million through share issues and $2.4 million in short-term borrowings.

Rex counts Jenny Morel-managed No 8 Ventures as its biggest shareholder with about 16 percent of the company, down from 38 percent before the AIM listing.

The AIM-listed shares last traded at 179.5 pence, just below the 180 pence placement price in May.


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