CustomVis fails a second time

19/08/2010 - 00:00

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INNOVATIVE laser technology developer CustomVis plc has gone into administration, just six weeks after UK investors trying to rescue the group bought the assets of its failed Australian subsidiary from liquidators.

INNOVATIVE laser technology developer CustomVis plc has gone into administration, just six weeks after UK investors trying to rescue the group bought the assets of its failed Australian subsidiary from liquidators.

The latest move continues the decade-long saga of Perth inventor Paul van Saarloos to successfully commercialise his eye surgery technology.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market since 2003, the Balcatta-based company was set up in 2001 by Dr van Saarloos.

CustomVis announced this month that, faced with legal proceedings from its customers in order to recover debts owing, and with more creditors potentially joining the queue, UK firm FRP Advisory had been appointed as administrators.

This followed a rescue package announced in June, which came in the form of a £303,000 ($A526,000) secured loan from CustomVis’ largest shareholder, Hawke Investment Holdings.

According to CustomVis’ financial report for 2009-10, the group has sold 45 Pulzar Z1 lasers since its inception, its flagship product, and made a £1 million ($1.8 million) profit before tax in the first half of the fiscal year.

Yet as reported by WA Business News last year, Dr van Saarloos and then-chairman Simon Carroll were subsequently challenged by a group of shareholders who were unhappy with the significant loss in the value of their shares.

Despite the board claiming in a letter to shareholders that the company was “making good progress towards becoming cash-flow positive”, CustomVis’ Australian subsidiary was put into administration earlier this year after being unable to raise additional funding for working capital.

In a report released by administrators KordaMentha, it was found that the company’s directors should have known CustomVis was insolvent months beforehand.

The company then announced a board shake-up that resulted in Dr van Saarloos, Mr Carroll and Emanuel Rosen resigning as directors.

In their place, UK investor Bob Morton, John O’Hara and Jackie Edwards were appointed as non-executive chairman, chief executive and non-executive director respectively.

Dr van Saarloos told WA Business News this week he initially agreed to stay on in the capacity of founder and chief scientist, but Mr O’Hara withdrew the offer.

Prior to CustomVis, Dr van Saarloos was a researcher at the Lions Eye Institute and went on to head up ASX-listed laser eye developer Q-Vis, which also fell into administration, after Dr van Saarloos was removed from the board.

Dr van Saarloos said it was disappointing that CustomVis had ended up in the hands of administrators again, as the technology “has the potential to become the dominant leader in a multi-billion dollar industry”.

“Australia is the worst country in the world to do business – there is a lack of government support, particularly at a state level,” he said.

According to Dr van Saarloos, a number of global firms have approached him with job offers, some of which are in talks with CustomVis’ administrators.

“They have indicated to me that they would like me to be available, that my role would be a conditional part of any offer,” Dr van Saaloos said.

 

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