By Peter Robert
Tech stocks, especially for start-ups, have been shunned by investors for months, but until last week Adelaide cold-cathode X-ray machine maker Micro-X held up better to storm than most.
However, over the past week, the market has depreciated the company’s shares, warning that it is growing impatient with the slow progress in turning the company’s truly cutting-edge technologies into sales.
The shares were at a high of around 41 cents a year ago and fell to 30 cents at the end of last year before plunging to close at 16.5 cents on Friday.
Looking at the company’s results for the six months to December released on Friday, the number that stands out for investors in these uncertain times is revenue – sales of $1.4 million of mobile X-ray machines in six months, a figure that to some would seem rather static over time.
Other income of $2.8 million came in the form of $1.7 million in R&D tax refunds, $500,000 from an $8 million contract received from the Australian Stroke Alliance and $200,000 from a similarly sized contract from the US Department of Homeland Security.
These two contracts represent part of the potential advantage of Micro-X’s position as the first and only company capable of producing a lightweight, low-power X-ray emitter from an array of nanotubes of carbon fiber.
The Stroke Alliance is funding the development of a portable, low-cost CT stroke imager for ambulances, while Homeland Security is backing an airport passenger checkpoint imager – both of which could be transformative for Micro-X.
The company is also set to launch a portable improvised explosive device (IED) X-ray camera that will transform the ability of military and security services to detect IEDs from a distance (pictured).
The device’s remote imaging capability uses backscatter imaging technology to detect threats such as bombs, drugs and other organic material. This is another potentially transformative product.
It is true that the company has spent a lot of money over the past year on sales and marketing, appointing its own international sales staff to sell its portable Rover X-ray machines for civilian use and potentially military.
Until recently, the company did not control its own sales channels with a third-party company Carestream marketing its devices under the Nano name.
The new employees took part in numerous international trade fairs where the company’s own brand products were enthusiastically received.
There’s certainly a lot of promise in Micro-X, but with an election looming and bombs dropping, investors are increasingly looking to sales and profits.
The author has a financial interest in Micro-X.
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