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Hi-tech firm BATM raises pounds 122m with swift share placing

BATM Advanced Communications, an Israeli-based maker of next- generation network switching gear, said yesterday that it had pulled off a swift share placement to raise a net pounds 122m to underpin expansion.

The funding exercise, which was wrapped up in two days, is the latest move by a company that draws a consistent stream of rave reviews from Internetevangelists. "I am delighted with the response," Zvi Marom, a founder and chief executive of BATM, said. "As well as providing funding for future acquisitions and further development of our product range, we welcome the broadening of our shareholder base."

Investor excitement focuses on BATM's work on photonics, the science of controlling light, and its potential uses for transferring vast amounts of data both speedily and cheaply. Its existing high-capacity network switches compete with output from Cisco Systems, and its customer book is studded with the names of the industry's big-hitters, including IBM.

Unsurprisingly, BATM shares have soared. So far this year they are up more than 2,400 per cent, capitalising the company at about pounds 1.4bn, and putting it on a price-earnings ratio of above 600 times. In the first half this year, it turned in profits of $2.68m The current placing of 3.3 million shares boosted the share base by about 10 per cent, but despite the dilution, the stock's upward arc has not faltered. Founded in 1992, BATM was listed on AIM in 1996, and transferred to the main London market in July. The month before, Minnesota, Mining & Manufacturing endorsed Mr Marom's strategy, buying a 4.35 per cent stake for $10m.

The former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been hired to help boostBATM's corporate profile.

Analysts highlight two critical deals: in January, BATM paid $2m to buy Netwiz, which has links with Cern, the Geneva-based European Laboratory for Particle Physics. And in August, it picked up a minority stake in Lynx Photonics Networks, an Israeli start-up that was pushing light-based Internet-related technologies.

"It is all about being at the heart of switching," said Mark Smith, at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, the placement's sole bookrunner. "Traditional valuations go out of the window."