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Changing times, changing names

Three quarters of listed Western Australian companies have changed their name over the years. Matthew Hooper and Mark Beyer have delved into the archives to review the changed identities of listed stocks.

WHO remembers BigShop.com.au Limited, the Internet retailer that famously listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on the day of the April 2000 ‘tech wreck’?

Patient shareholders in Altera Capital might.

What about B2B.Net Technology, a company whose name summed up the dot.com mania of the late 1990s?

Shareholders in Australian Healthcare Technology might remember.

Agro Machinery, Max Multimedia and Sumich Group are other listed companies that have morphed into very different beasts.

Yilgarn Mining, IMF (Australia) and pSivida are the current names of these companies, which have taken shareholders on roller coaster rides over the years.

During the heady days of the tech boom dozens, of small Western Australian exploration companies turned themselves into technology companies.

It was a trend that perpetuated stereotypes of cowboys in the ‘wild west’ chasing the next fast buck.

Since then, some companies turned to the next fad sector, biotech, and even more have reverted to their traditional pursuit as investment fashions turned back to mineral exploration.

An exhaustive review by WA Business News has found that more than 350 Western Australian listed companies have changed their names.

In some extreme cases, such as Aspen Group, Central Exchange, Eqitx and Optum Health, the companies have had about 10 different names.

The review has found that name changes fall into three broad categories.

The first is where new directors and new management take control of a moribund company, often in administration, and vend a new business into the ‘shell’.

A prime example is Organic Resource Technology, which in past lives was known as Syntech, Cape Tel and Masmindo Mining.

The second category of name change is less common but in many ways more interesting.

It occurs when an incumbent board of directors chooses to change the name and principal activity of the company but decide to keep their board seats (see article page 13).

The third category is where the name changes but the company continues essentially in the same line of business.

AFT Corporation, which has been through more changes than most companies, is a notable example.

Over the years it has been called Voicenet, Southern Group, Ampersand International and Southern Broadcasting Systems, yet all the while it has been trying to make a dollar from its voice recording system.

Another example is Energy World Corporation, previously known as Energy Equity Corporation and Conversion Technology.

The review found that mineral exploration companies are just as likely to change their name as tech companies.

Ashburton Minerals, for instance, has previously been known as Zephyr Minerals, Offshore Diamond Mines and Magnet Petroleum.

Another example is Dwyka Diamonds, formerly known as Gloucester Resources, Hurricane Resources and Swan Gold.

The review also found that tech companies do not have a monopoly on creative and obscure names.

Greenstone Resources, which is developing a gold mine in The Philippines, changed its name to Red 5.

A look back through the back files reveals some fascinating company histories.

The company now known as BKM Management was originally a mineral exploration company called North Star Resources.

Instead of following other explorers into the dot.com trend, it decided to buy surfwear label, Wet Dreams. That, in turn, was followed by a move into modelling and a name change to Blink Models.

Under its current name, BKM has decided to go looking for minerals in China, but in the meantime will retain its modelling agencies.

A look back through the archives also highlights the jargon so loved by aspiring tech companies.

Avon Resources’ predecessor Triton Coporation was a prime offender.

As a Sydney-based company it invested in both telecommunications and biometric software before falling into administration.

The description of its SAFLINK range of biometric software and hardware solutions was a classic of the era.

“SAFsite allows multi-biometric identification and authentication to be integrated into web-based enterprise network applications built with leading Internet rapid application development tools,” the company said in a statement.

Most readers have no idea what that means, but that didn’t stop punters getting excited by tech opportunities in the late 1990s.

The review of name changes shows that a new name doesn’t always signify a clean break from past activities.

One company that went through a complete change was Max Multimedia.

When its tech business failed, Max became a vehicle for lawyer Hugh McLernon to list Insolvency Management Fund, now known as IMF (Australia). Max Multimedia’s direct competitor, Q Multimedium, has also changed its name, to Jumbuck Corporation, but it is still involved in tech activities.

Its focus is now the supply of mobile data services to wireless carriers and the operation of its QDi direct printing operation in Perth.

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