Chip firm spurns London quote

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The Independent Online
TYNESIDE-based Syntaq Group is set to become the latest high technology firm to turn its back on the London Stock Exchange, opting instead for New York's Nasdaq market in a flotation due early next year which may value it at up to $300m (pounds 196m).

Syntaq is the only world competitor to Memory Corporation, the faulty computer chip repairer whose shares recently crashed spectacularly on the UK's Alternative Investment Market, and its new high profile will put further pressure on its Scottish-based rival, analysts say.

The Memory experience has not daunted Syntaq's managing director, David Armstrong. His firm employs different technology to achieve the same result.

This weekend, Syntaq's adviser Page, Polin, Busch & Boatwright, based in San Diego, California, is starting a private placing among institutional and trade investors to raise $12.5m for further capital expenditure.

Investors will be offered around 10 per cent of the equity, leaving 45 per cent each in the hands of Mr Armstrong and Harry Swaddle, the Newcastle- based investor.

"It looks very promising. We're committed to the flotation now. Investors are accepting illiquidity (in the private placing) now, but not for long," Mr Armstrong said.

Publicity-shy Mr Swaddle is a legend on Tyneside, second only to Sir John Hall, who built Newcastle's Metrocentre, Europe's largest shopping centre, and owns Newcastle football club.

Mr Swaddle, an astute investor, dabbled in numerous local businesses after leaving the army after the Second World War but really made his money setting up Swaddles, one of the UK's leading disposable nappy firms, which he sold in the 1980s.

Like Memory, Syntaq produces Single In Line Memory Modules (Simms) - boards consisting of defective memory chips discarded by microchip makers, together with proprietary techonology that rectifies the faults.

It is then able to sell on the Simms, mainly to business computer manufacturers, at prices lower than those for originally perfect chips.

Unlike Memory, however, it also has an additional arm, HMP - Hybrid Memory Products - which supplies chips to defence firms, including GEC and Shorts Brothers, for missile and aircraft radar. HMP has just won a pounds 6.9m order from British Aerospace for components in its Asraam missile.

Altogether, the group made a $1.4m loss on sales of $21m in the year to the end of March, caused by a collapse in world memory chip prices which - as with Memory - hit stocks and sales in the last quarter.

In the placing document, however, it is forecasting $6.9m after-tax profits on $77m of sales in the current year, with net profits of $17m on projected sales of $152m in the year to March 1988.