FBR slashes spending, activities

19/03/2020 - 13:00

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Robotic bricklaying company FBR has slashed its workforce, saving $10 million per year, and postponed the construction of its first display home, which was due to commence in a matter of days.

FBR says its headcount has been significantly reduced across the business. Photo: FBR

Robotic bricklaying company FBR has slashed its workforce, saving $10 million per year, and postponed the construction of its first display home, which was due to commence in a matter of days.

In an announcement late yesterday, the ASX-listed company attributed the changes to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around the Australian government’s R&D tax incentive refund program.

The R&D incentive scheme delivered a $9.4 million cash refund to the company last September and was crucial to its financial viability.

The cash refund greatly bolstered the company’s balance sheet; it had equity of $57 million and cash of $16 million at the end of December last year.

The company also raised $8.5 million from shareholders late last year.

It needed to raise extra capital to help fund its operations.

FBR spent $8.7 million on operating costs and product development activities in the December quarter alone, while having zero income from customers.

The company said headcount has been significantly reduced across the business.

Its executive team has been trimmed to managing director Mike Pivac, chief technical officer Mark Pivac and chief financial officer Aidan Flynn.

The company added that a core technical team remained in place to operate its Hadrian X® construction robot and continue to refine its technology.

FBR has also postponed construction of its first display home in Dayton, in Perth’s north eastern suburbs.

The display home, to be built in conjunction with Perth companies Summit Homes Group and Archistruct Builders and Designers, was meant to demonstrate the capability of Hadrian X® on a residential building site.

FBR had also planned to transport Hadrian X® machines to the United States and Europe this year.

“In light of international travel restrictions, FBR has resolved to postpone these activities until further notice,” the company stated.

It said measures implemented to date in the ongoing cost rationalisation program have resulted in a reduction of approximately $10 million per annum in payroll costs alone.

“Faced with a global health and economic crisis and uncertainty around the government’s support of R&D activities in Australia through the R&D Tax Incentive refund program, FBR has acted swiftly to ensure the company remains well positioned for success as the world recovers from this pandemic,” Mike Pivac said.

Mr Pivac said the company will still progress its technology and global commercialisation plans, but with a much lower cost base.

“As a pre-revenue R&D company, FBR has acted in the best interests of its shareholders to insulate the company and its intellectual property against the macro factors the world is currently facing, and in particular the Australian R&D environment,” he said.

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