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Slab Buys Into Hong Kong To Fast Track Kiwi Tech

12 March 2001


Auckland-based Slab Sound has just completed its first international acquisition, with a multi million-dollar deal to buy a Hong Kong company. This will provide a springboard for the company’s NZ-developed innovative flat panel speaker and noise control technology into high growth world markets.

Slab Sound paid more than NZ$1.5m to acquire AGC Technology. The new company, Slab Asia Ltd, will receive further investment over the next two years, with NZ$2.6m earmarked for the Hong Kong-based sales operation and an additional NZ$5m to develop a secure boutique production centres in China.

The fast-track growth is being fuelled by funding from AMP Henderson Private Capital and venture capital fund managers Caltech Capital Partners, who have just finalised an investment of $10million into Slab Sound.

Chris Lock, Slab International CEO, says the Hong Kong deal is a significant step in the company’s progression from the multimedia speaker market into home audio, home theatre and hi-fi markets. He predicts these will drive the company’s growth and, in turn, provide a further basis for expansion into the marine and automotive sectors internationally.

The company has taken elaborate precautions to control and protect its NZ- developed intellectual property, from development through to application and final production. Component parts will be supplied for final assembly at Slab’s production facility in China, with all of the primary research and development work continuing to be done in New Zealand, often in conjunction with engineers and designers in customers’ companies.

“We see our best growth path in moving away from relying only on royalties. We’ll be looking to boost sales and improve margins through getting closer to the customer, which in turn will give us a greater capability to carry out more R&D and tap into lucrative international markets with our NZ-developed technology.”

The Hong Kong investment will help Slab develop and maintain closer contacts with US and European customers as well as providing greater input into global distribution. Negotiations are underway with a number of large US companies to sell through their distribution channels, providing rapid expansion of markets from classy multi-media brands like Labtec and Yahoo (that currently use Slab technology) through to convergence of innovative sound production and noise control products in commercial and architectural and domestic solutions.

New Zealand R&D staff numbers will be boosted but the right people may be hard to find. “We’re looking for PhD engineers in specialist audio areas, and although there are a few people around the New Zealand, they are pretty scarce,” says Chris Lock. “One of the lessons we’ve learned as a growing R&D company is that a good long term supply of top level staff is critical. We’ve put a lot of time into building some good relationships with universities which should lead to more people with the sort of qualifications we need coming through.”

Slab currently is a small 10-person R&D company formed two years ago to continue the development of flat panel speaker technology started by one of the founders six years previously. The thin flat sheet speaker pumps out a comparable sound to traditional box and cone speakers but with a significant improvement in the dispersion of sound in the listening environment. The panel speakers can also masquerade as a photo, picture or table ornament.


For more information:
Chris Lock, Slab Sound 64 9 308 8284


Carrara Communications Ltd
Public Relations / Communications
P O Box 128-183 Remuera, Auckland, NZ
Tel: 64 9 579 7270. Fax 64 9 579 7807
mobile: 021 80 4749 (025 80 4749 a/h)

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