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ZBB making its Perth return

EVERYTHING old is new again. No, not the words of a catchy little song, or a slogan for an engineering firm.

In this case it is the return of ZBB, better known to some ageing Perth investors as the zinc bromine battery.

Long thought to be dead, or to have migrated permanently offshore, ZBB is back, alive, healthy and ready to make a gala appearance on a stock exchange near you.

Details of when ZBB regains a listing on the ASX are a secret.

The rest, somewhat curiously, are very public, thanks to that marvellous invention, the worldwide web.

A surfie friend of Briefcase reported with much excitement the other day that a trip to www.zbbenergy.com lights up the website of ZBB Energy Corporation, complete with a pulsing arrow inviting the reader to have a look at the company’s prospectus and to click on a link to the results of a special meeting of shareholders.

For anyone not in Perth in the mid-1980s ZBB will be a novel discovery.

For those lucky to have experienced the excitement and excesses of those heady days ZBB was one of the original listings on what was known as the second board of the Perth Stock Exchange.

Created by a team of boffins at Murdoch University and backed by patient investors led by members of the Parry family, ZBB was working on a long-life electricity storage battery that would fulfil the dream of all power utilities by storing vast amounts of electricity when demand was low and release it into peak periods.

It was not a competitor to conventional lead-acid batteries but plugged into mainline grids and made sense of alternative energy systems such as solar and wind by providing the essential battery back-up for when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun shine.

Sadly for ZBB the 1987 share market crash brought disaster. Most of the company’s spare cash was lost in the collapse of the Duke Group, plunging ZBB into receivership. When it emerged in the early 1990s, chief executive Rob Parry, took the company to the US where it was reborn as a Wisconsin-based business.

Fast forward 10 years and Parry is back, with ZBB. Today it is housed in an office-warehouse complex at Bibra Lake with a staff busily delivering on the original promise, manufacturing zinc bromine batteries, and planning a major expansion by raising $15 million.

True believers in alternative energy will love ZBB.

It has the correct “green” credentials, has struggled to survive and is ready prove that there is a better way to store and distribute electricity.

Investors will be more cautious because of past history, though a look at how the company has progressed should dispel their fears.

The battery, which started life under the late Jim Parker at Murdoch has travelled far, in terms of science and geography.

Shareholders have voted to make the return from Wisconsin and go for a listing via the shell of a company called GTN Resources which was trading around 25.5 cents before requesting a suspension last week.

Briefcase is confident that when the time is right ZBB will press the publicity button.

In the meantime, faithful readers of this column might care to let their fingers do the walking to the waiting website and beat the first press release.

 

OH dear, here they come again.

 Just when gold bugs thought it was safe to go back into the market the Aussies have started their much-criticised policy of forward selling.

Dominion Mining was the first to give the game away with confirmation last week that it had sold forward an extra 15,000 ounces of gold from its Challenger mine in South Australia.

The deal is minuscule in the overall gold market. However, it is significant because the recent high gold price has made it impossible for a small producer to avoid the temptation of locking in the price.

What’s good for the small producer may also be good for the big and even if the leaders of the gold market preach a policy of no forward selling because it puts too much gold into the market the ability to guarantee a future price (especially in a fickle commodity such as gold) may well prove too much.

Nobody is brave enough to say that the bull run in gold will be affected by Dominion’s tiny sale, but it may turn out to be a bit like the old competition of who saw the first daffodil of spring.

 

ANYONE interested in the ultimate investment thrill should sign up for a piece of the Reko Diq float being planned by small nickel producer, Mincor.

While everything else at Mincor looks fabulous thanks to some excellent management decisions and a strong nickel price, the Reko Diq float has to be so far up the risk scale as to have popped out the end.

The last time Briefcase looked Reko Diq was a whopping big copper prospect in Pakistan.

Not just anywhere in that country but awfully close to the border with Afghanistan.

In Briefcase’s humble opinion that makes far too many “stans” for comfort because it is hard to visualise a successful copper mine in a war zone – well, not this century anyway. As Bougainville Copper discovered more than a decade ago the man with the AK47 wins, everytime.

 

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