The fundraising by the nanotechnology company follows an expanding
list of overseas firms tapping Singapore's pool of high net worth
P2i's technology applies a thin, transparent, splash-resistant
polymer coat to products ranging from clothing to mobile phones.
The company is in the process of introducing a new version of the
technology, which it calls "Dunkable", that will allow devices to
survive being immersed in water.
"This is all about growth. We are now at the inflexion point in our
business," P2i's CEO Carl Francis told Reuters in an interview
during a visit to Singapore to meet potential investors. The firm
aims to turn profitable this year and has raised about 47 million
pounds since it was set up 10 years ago.
"We need to become more Asia-centric. There's just no question. This
is where our customers manufacture things, this is increasingly
where the decision makers are and the big electronics companies,"
The company counts Motorola and Siemens AG among its global clients
and is backed by investors including Unilever Ventures, part of
P2i is mulling a listing on an Asian exchange, but it has not made a
final decision as to where.
"We have had a series of increasing valuations in our business and
now is the time to put all of that together and raise some money in
preparation of an IPO in 12 to 18 months," said Francis, while
picking up his smartphone from a bucket of water after demonstrating
P2i, shorthand for "perform, protect and improve", is betting on
widespread usage by network operators who see the robustness of
phones as vital to prevent churn in their users.
P2i is not the first in what is becoming an increasingly crowded
space with the likes of HZO, Integrated Surface Technologies and
Lotus Leaf Coatings, which offer similar products.
Ross Kozarsky, a U.S.-based senior analyst at Lux Research and a
specialist in advanced materials, said that while P2i was an early
leader, "it faces fierce competition", particularly in segments like
[to top of second column]
"Hydrophobic coatings is becoming an increasingly dense landscape
with a slew of emerging developers," Kozarsky said.
Francis acknowledged that it was not easy for a company like P2i to
differentiate itself as a brand to the consumer on mobile phones.
"Most of our customers, no matter what sector they're in, don't want
to talk about our technology or anyone's technology. They just want
to quietly reap the benefits", he said.
P2i's plasma process reduces the surface energy of a material, so
that when liquids come into contact with it, they form beads and
roll off. The technology began as a project within Britain's
government-run Defence Science & Technology Laboratory to make
soldiers' protective clothing more effective against chemical
P2i aims to increase revenue substantially from an estimated 19
million pounds this year. P2i's existing technologies have been used
in nearly 100 million electronic devices, mostly mobile phones. It
counts electronics, filtration, life sciences and military divisions
among its key customer segments.
($1=0.5925 British pound)
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff; Editing by Matt Driskill)
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