31 Oct: Sandvik Materials Technology has signed an agreement to divest the welding wire operations to ESAB, a global leader in the welding industry and part of Colfax Corporation. The agreement completes the main step in the divestment plan for welding wire and stainless wire announced on 17 May 2017. The deal includes the production units in Sandviken, Sweden and Scranton, US as well as the global sales and product management organization; in total approximately 120 employees. Revenues for the welding wire business amounted to 470 million SEK in 2016.
"We strongly believe that ESAB, with welding as its core business, is the right owner. The divestment enables us to further focus on our core operations according to Sandvik's strategy," says Björn Rosengren, Sandvik´s President and CEO.
"We are excited by the opportunity to better serve customers with a broader and enhanced portfolio of stainless steel and nickel filler metals," says Shyam Kambeyanda, President of ESAB.
The cash flow impact from the transaction is expected to be positive. Closing of the divestment is estimated to be completed within 2-4 months, following customary closing conditions.
The process to exit the stainless wire business, with about 270 million SEK in sales 2016, is progressing according to plan.
31 Oct: The Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) National Science Challenge Board is providing $2m of funding for a project to develop adaptable, cheaply reconfigured, rapidly deployed ‘workforce’ robots able to learn from their environments. Project will examine how robotics can deliver an economic boost to NZ writes Stuart Corner for Computerworld New Zealand. SfTI said the project would take a long-term view and examine how robotics could provide solutions for New Zealand’s economic needs.
Specifically, the programme will look into automated and autonomous technologies for small scale, high value, production; delve into ‘learning’ robots; and look at how robots can operate in rugged outdoor environments.
“Researchers will seek to develop new paradigms in robot autonomy and adaptability, including predictive environmental sensor fusion, and automatic improvement of AI-based interpretation of data,” according to SfTI.
The research group will also investigate workforce robots that could ‘communicate’, learn, and collaboratively work alongside humans, and investigate ‘non-written cues’, and the use of icons to communicate and exchange information.
SfTI said the collaborative structure of the research project across academic, commercial and industrial manufacturing sectors would create a dynamic network of information and expertise that will generate new knowledge, skills and revenue.
“From a commercial perspective the primary sector, including agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and forestry, will directly benefit from the introduction of highly adaptable robots. Robust robots can assist in pre- and post-harvest processes eg cropping, pruning, monitoring nutrients in run off and leaching, and manage environmental inputs like precision agriculture and nutrient management,” SfTI said.
The project will involve researchers from Lincoln Agritech and SCION, as well as Auckland, Victoria, Massey, Canterbury and Otago Universities.
SfTI Director, Sally Davenport, said: “this is a forward-looking project aimed at underpinning future small-scale production of tailored, high value robots with wide application and an eye on export.”
Davenport said the projects brought to seven the number of spearheads projects funded since the SfTI Challenge launched two years ago with a $32.9m budget. SfTI had also funded a further 28 smaller high-risk, potentially high reward, SEED research projects in that time.
30 Oct: The world’s largest tech firm Apple has confirmed New Zealand is on the right track to become a great global tech story, just like tourism, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says. New Zealand is once again proving it excels in what Sir Paul Callaghan once said our strength lies in the weird stuff, Muller says. When the world’s largest tech firm purchases our technology, in this case Power by Proxi, we know we are on the right track, doing some great things. “The purchase of Power by Proxi by Apple is another sign of the growing strength of New Zealand as a leader of tech innovation. The top 200 tech exporters are now selling more than $7 billion a year into offshore markets while employing thousands of Kiwis here in New Zealand,” Muller says. “Employment across the tech sector rose by 22 percent between 2015 and 2016 and now accounts for 6 percent of the national workforce. “The University of Auckland has become a global centre for wireless charging research and has a faculty built around inductive power transfer, a field pioneered by two Auckland University professors and now used globally. “Having licensed the technology to Power by Proxi, the university will probably continue to gather licence returns from Apple, and others, as this technology goes mainstream. “Apple plans to keep the Power by Proxi business and team in New Zealand, no doubt to stay embedded within the world leading wireless charging faculty at Auckland. “As well as licensing returns for the university and ongoing job growth, the government would have had a decent tax take from the sale as most businesses like Power by Proxi typically have employee share schemes of about 10 percent of the value of the business. “If Apple purchased Power by Proxi for $100 million, which isn’t beyond reality given Funderbeam estimated their valuation at $112 million late 2016 and if they had 10 percent secured as employee share options, then the purchaser would have had to pay millions in tax.” Muller says this is not the first time a multinational tech firm has acquired a successful and growing New Zealand tech firm. According to the recent TIN Report 16 percent of New Zealand’s leading tech exporters have some international ownership. “They continue to invest into these local entities, often for the R&D capabilities, employing more than 5000 people. Not only are they good export earners and employers, the proceeds of the sales usually find their way back into the local tech ecosystem. “When the owners of TradeMe cashed up many of them invested into Xero to help the next big tech story grow. Other examples of global players still invested in New Zealand include Allied Telesis, BCS Group, Dynamic Controls, Intergen, Skope and Schneider Electric. “In tourism, New Zealand has been rated one of the top 10 hot spots to visit in the world in 2018, we will soon see in the coming years that, per capita, New Zealand becoming one of the top 10 tech countries in the world. We are not just rugby and tourism anymore,” Muller says.
| A MakeLemonade release || October 30, 2017 2017 |||
30 Oct: The world’s most profitable company is set to receive up to $25 million per year in corporate welfare grants, thanks to Callaghan Innovation’s ‘growth grant’ programme. Last week it was revealed that the Apple bought PowerbyProxi, a major recipient of the R&D grants.
Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said: “First it was money for Larry Ellison’s Oracle, then French company Gameloft, and now Apple is getting in on the action. Our Government’s corporate welfare schemes make New Zealand a laughing stock. We pay for R&D and don’t even require the results to stay in New Zealand.” “Designed in California, funded by Kiwi taxpayers. Anything that results from the R&D ends up in the pockets of Apple’s shareholders. It’s nuts.” “Callaghan Innovation is trying to defend the grants by pointing out that they couldn’t have known the business would be bought by Apple. But that’s mischievous. Korean giant, Samsung, has owned a substantial equity stake since 2013.”
| A Taxpayers Union release || October 30, 2017 |||
30 Oct: Managed funds will soon be included in a new NZ financial product comparison site that already aggregates information on all KiwiSaver schemes, mortgages, credit cards and loans.
Launched in the last month, Pocketwise – whose founders include SavvyKiwi chief, Binu Paul, and Richard Dellabarca, the recently-appointed head of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund – has an ambitious plan to corral a broad range of financial products and other consumer services (including mobile and broadband plans) inside its digital perimeter.
According to the Pocketwise website, the service offers consumers “extensive analysis” across the product suite with online tools designed to “help you narrow down and find the best product to suit your situation or lifestyle, and achieve your financial goals”.
Paul, who launched the KiwiSaver comparison site SavvyKiwi three years ago after long stints at Nikko Asset Management and FundSource, said Pocketwise aims to include all products in each class for comparison.
However, unlike the SavvyKiwi service (which is currently funded solely from subscriptions) he said Pocketwise does accept commission from providers.
“But regardless of whether a provider pays us a commission or not we will include every product in every category,” Binu said, with clear disclosure of remuneration to Pocketwise clients.
He said the commission structure would not influence the comparison algorithms.
As well as Paul and Dellabarca, Pocketwise founders include former ASB Digital technology specialists Prashant Trivedy and Santhan Kusam Venkata. The four are shareholders and directors of Fintech Solutions, a company formed this June.
Paul is also convener of the pioneering NZ financial technology conference, Finnotec, slated for a sequel appearance this week.
He said despite shifting Finnotec to the larger Langham Hotel venue in Auckland (after selling out the Hilton at the inaugural 2016 event) the conference had almost filled up.
“We’ve got a few places left but demand has been high,” Paul said. “As well as top-quality local speakers, people are keen to get access to the offshore fintech expertise that we’re presenting.”
A handful of tickets were still available via the conference website as at late last week.
Finnotec, set down for this Friday at the Langham, features speakers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, US and Latin America as well as local experts.
The 2016 conference was the first NZ event to address the burgeoning fintech sector.
| An InvestmentNews NZ release || October 30, 2017 |||
30 Oct: New Zealand and the United Kingdom have much to gain from a free-trade agreement to be negotiated after Britain has left the European Union, British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair told the Otago Daily Times that a free-trade agreement would benefit both economies.says.
The next four or five years should be used by the two countries to strengthen their already close relationships, he said.
Mr Sinclair visited Dunedin on Friday as part of his farewell process. He leaves for London on December 9 after spending three and a-half years in New Zealand as High Commissioner.
27 Oct: A regional petrol tax to help fund Auckland city's transport infrastructure comes amid a global change in the air for user-pays funding for major projects, provided the benefits stack up for those footing the bill.
US President Donald Trump is reportedly toying with the idea of hiking fuel taxes as a means to fund his promised US$1 trillion of infrastructure investment, which was a key policy plank in his successful bid for the White House last year. That would end a 24-year freeze on US petrol taxes and marks "a massive shift" for user-pays funding models, says KPMG's Americas and India head of global infrastructure Stephen Beatty.
"It will send a signal to all politicians it is possible to raise charges as long as you're prepared to provide something to the people that you are charging," Beatty told Infrastructure New Zealand's building nations symposium in Wellington today. "Our credibility as public servants is not high because we aren't delivering the value we need to and we are apologising when we raise any charges for it, and so I would urge everybody in the room to turn to the new government and say don't apologise but make sure you deliver benefits at the same time."
Both major political parties made big-spending infrastructure promises in the lead-up to the September election to meet New Zealand's expanding population, which has seen a shortfall of housing drive up property prices and increase traffic congestion, while at the same time local authorities are hamstrung in their ability to pay for upgrades to municipal infrastructure.
Beatty told the conference that the big questions for policymakers to answer is funding projects, which is whether the taxpayer or users foot the bill over an extended period of time, rather than financing, which is simply where the immediate cash comes from. "It's not about financing, it's about funding. Does the base business case actually work?" he said.
27 Oct: A bad batch of fungicide has ruined apples in the Nelson region in New Zealand and some fruit will be destroyed instead of exported, a grower says.
An apple grower in Nelson, said it was the active ingredient mancozeb causing the problem, damaging numerous orchards in Nelson and several in Hawke's Bay.
He said in his orchard the fungicide has caused russet on apple skins, knocked fruit off trees too early, and damaged leaves, resulting in lower quality apples that he said would not meet export standards.
New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said the industry was in the early stages of investigating the problem.
"We are aware that an issue has arisen, particularly in Nelson. It appears that a spray has been applied in the early stages of fruit development. It seems to have caused some damage to the developing fruit.
"We have recalled the product which is the first stage. We are just in the process now of evaluating the extent of the impact of the issue."
Mr Pollard said he did not know how many orchards were affected, but those that were would not necessarily be written off and hoped that some fruit could be spared.
"Hopefully, not all the fruit on the tree will be subject to that and we'll be able to save some."
New Zealand Apples and Pears said it was talking with the supplier of the product, and working out what process they have used.
Mr Pollard said it was too early to know if the chemical supplier would be held accountable for damaging crops.
"We are trying to understand what has happened and why, and once we do that we will be in a better position to see what happens from there."
27 Oct: Lets play with heavy machinery. And in Invercagill they are doing just that. The attraction has just opened that will allow you to rip, push and pull to your heart’s content using heavy machinery. Dig This Invercargill is New Zealand’s first heavy equipment playground, and while it doesn’t sound like a typical tourist attraction, it definitely seems like great fun.
Guests are given the opportunity to choose from nine fun options where they get to operate bulldozers, excavators, mini excavators and skid steers in a giant gravel pit. There’s no need to worry if you haven’t driven heavy machinery before, as the experienced team in charge will show you how. You don’t even need to have a driver’s licence, and there are activities for the young, young at heart and groups.
Once you have selected your experience, it is recommended that you book online or contact the team to secure your spot. When you take the controls of Dig This Invercargill’s massive machines, you get a quick overview of the safety procedures you will be required to follow and must pass the breathalyser test before being fitted with a neon yellow vest and hardhat.
The instructors will talk you through every detail you’ll need to know in order to manoeuvre the machines and give you the confidence it takes to manage the machine. Operating them might take a little getting used to, so the company has designed a series of warm-up exercises to help. You will be connected via headset to the instructors at all times, which ensures you’re under their watchful eyes. From here you will be digging, trenching and pushing yourself around the lot in no time.
Once you’re comfortable, the team will guide you through a series of activities to test your skills.
26 Oct: After just 18 months in business, PS Duo – a professional services company which sprung from distributor Duo – is celebrating multiple wins, including its inclusion on the New Zealand Government ICT Security and Related Services Panel.
Jackie Hatchwell, PS Duo director, says the business – which operates separately from Duo and provides contractors for brands not represented by Duo, as well as those that are – is ‘a huge growth area for us’.
PS Duo has just been appointed to the ICT Security and Related Services (SRS) panel, is in discussions with vendors about whitelisted professional services and has a growing stable of contractors with the service being adopted by increasing numbers of resellers.
The SRS panel, designed to help government agencies manage privacy and security issues, has seen 40 service providers contracted to provide services for eligible government agencies across the five categories of ICT security and related services.
PS Duo was appointed as a primary vendor across infosec risk management and assessment, infosec governance and strategy and infosec assurance on the panel.
It was also appointed to provide ancillary services across source code, application review and technical testing and ICT forensics, investigation and security incident response.
“It shows that we have resource available in each of the categories and what we can deliver with that resource,” Hatchwell says. “There’s a lot behind a government tender and it’s great to be part of that panel now.”
The appointment to the panel follows a busy year for the company which has added a minority shareholder and director, with Clint Revell joining the team, and built out a network of around 60 contractors nationwide to call on, with the aim of providing a skilled resource, almost on tap for reseller partners.
Hatchwell says the service has been well received, with 18 contractors currently out on long term engagements of eight to 12 months, and another seven or eight out any given week on short term engagements.
Hatchwell says the company is also seeing increasing diversity in its reseller partners.
Initially used primarily to backfill resource for Tier 1 resellers with their own security practices, PS Duo is increasingly being called on to help Tier 2 resellers who don’t have their own in-house security resource for projects.“We’ve got a number of Tier 2 reseller partners across both the North and South Island now, which just shows the conversation around security is widening.
“Their customer base is more aware of what is happening so when someone wants someone to come in and look at their system and do a health check on it, if you’re a Tier 2 you may not have that resource available.
“Rather than independently going out and finding someone to do it for them or going to one of the big four, the resellers are coming to us.”
But it’s not just resellers and some end users looking to take advantage of PS Duo’s resources, with the company in discussion with several vendors about whitelabelled professional services – essentially providing vendors with a local professional services arm.
Hatchwell says discussions are underway with two vendors currently on the logistics of providing the service.
“We’ve been approached by a number of vendors about that. A couple are vendors Duo already represents here in New Zealand, but others are vendors that we don’t distribute.
“At the moment they’re having to bring people in internationally because they don’t have access to any skill set here.”
The contractors would be trained up at the vendor’s cost.
“It’s another added benefit for the contractors,” Hatchwell says.
Hatchwell says a large priority for her is making the contractors, who are spread across New Zealand, feel like they are part of a team, rather than independent contractors.
The company has built a collaboration tool to ensure contractors can communicate with each other and ask for help from other contractors.
“We’re encouraging everyone to use it and it’s paying for itself in the sense of being a fantastic way for the contractors to not only help each other out, but get to know each other,” she says.
Hatchwell says the company is also building out an education calendar to enable its contractors to quickly locate training – which can be spread across multiple providers depending on who distributes a product – and upskill.