Movie software company Vista is Hi-Tech company of the year

PLUS: Two new entrants into Hi-Tech Hall of Fame.

Listed film software and analytics firm Vista Group won the PwC Hi-Tech company of the year in the annual Hi-Tech Awards (#htanz) with judges saying it truly had “worldwide potential”.

Vista may argue that potential has already been met given it now provides software to over 4000 cinemas in more than 60 countries and has 400-plus staff in eight offices globally.

It was founded in 1996 after chief executive Murray Holdaway and commercial and legal director Brian Cadzow initially entered into a 50:50 joint venture with film exhibitor Village to develop a cinema ticketing system for its multi-screen theatres and later bought it out with a bunch of other shareholders.

Vista [NZX:VGL] dual-listed on the NZX/ASX in August 2014, raising $92 million in an initial public offering. Its market capitalisation since then has catapulted to $470 million from $187 million or from $2.35 to $5.85 per share on the NZX. Its shares are up 19.38% over the past year, defying skeptics who fear the movie industry is coming under pressure from online piracy and the rise of low-cost streaming video on-demand services like Netflix (see NBR's Vista Group coverage here).

The group, which comprises 10 businesses providing software solutions to the film industry, has a map on the wall of its Auckland offices displaying its customer footprint. And while there’s still a few gaps – Africa, Scandinavia, some parts of Europe – it’s always aimed for world domination.

Its global market share in the large cinema market has grown to 38 percent, up 15 percent in the past six years.

Award judges said Vista had demonstrated strong growth with a well thought out and tailored product and market knowledge. “They have a great management team that hasn’t been afraid to go hard to secure deals around the world,” the judges said.

More than a billion cinema tickets are processed each year through its core product, Vista Cinema. Its other businesses also draw in small cinema exhibitors and distributors by offering head office administration, online ticketing, loyalty clubs, box office analysis, and mobile apps for staff and patrons.

It has been on the acquisition trail, with deals this year including a 50 percent investment in UK-based Powster, which provides movie websites and marketing platforms to film studios and distributors, and buying 100 percent of movie guide Flicks NZ and Australia.

This month Vista signed up its second large-scale chain in China – Jinyi International Cinemas which has 138 cinema sites in southern and eastern China.

Revenue in the 2015 financial year was up 39 percent to $65.4 million while net profit increased $1 million to $9 million. In an investor update this month Vista said it expected to increase its cash balance by between $30 million to $40 million through its Vista China deal announced in March.

Biejing Weying Technology Co (WePaio) is coming in as a partner in Vista China to help secure the group’s position in the China film market where box office revenue is forecast to overtake the US by next year.

The deal announced in March is still subject to regulatory approval and WePaio being satisfied with due diligence on Vista China which is nearly completed.

Under the deal, WePaio is taking a 2 percent stake in the Vista Group, acquiring existing shares in Vista China for cash and subscribing for new shares to provide capital growth to that business. In return for Vista providing a long-term distribution agreement for all the group’s software to Vista China, it receives $30 million from WePaio's investment in that company, an up-front licence, and maintenance fees in year one. In year two it’s expected to get $8 million for WePaio’s investment in Vista Group and up-front fees and then on-going maintenance fees from year four onwards and an equity accounted interest in Vista China.

Shareholders will start to reap the benefit of Vista’s growth from the 2016 financial year when it will start paying dividends for the first time since listing – of around 30 percent to 50 percent of net profit subject to growth opportunities and capital expenditure requirements.

Other big winners
Another big winner at the awards was cloud video production service, 90 Seconds, which took out both the IBM Most Innovative Company award and the ATEED Best Technology Solution for the Creative Sector award. Judges described it as the Uber and AirBnB of video production as it has developed a disruptive scalable model with global aspirations. 90 Second recently raised $11 million in a round supported by Sky TV.

Precision Seafood Harvesting won the inaugural Maori innovation award for its sustainable fishing technology that allows wild fish to be selected and handled with better care to lift their value. Read more about PGP's win here

And Flick Electric picked up the gong for innovative service. Read NBR's latest Flick story, posted today, here: Bright-spark online start-up Flick eyes overseas markets.

Two new Hall of Famers
The awards night also marked the unveiling of two new Flying Kiwis, Katherine Corich, founder and chief executive of Sysdoc Group and NBR Rich Lister Sam Morgan, founder of Trade Me, who were inducted into the Tait Communications Hi-Tech Hall of Fame.

New Zealand Hi-Tech Trust chair Wayne Norrie said, “Both Katherine and Sam have achieved so much. They have built up hugely successful businesses, they help and mentor the next generation of Kiwi entrepreneurs and they also do so much philanthropic work. It’s great that their peers recognise their achievements – both are very worthy recipients of the prestigious Flying Kiwi Award."

The 2016 NZ Hi-Tech Award winners are:

2016 Flying Kiwis and inductees into the Tait Communications Hi-Tech Hall of Fame

Katherine Corich

Sam Morgan

Fronde Hi-Tech Young Achiever Award

Winner: Danu Abeysuriya – CEO of Rush Digital

Qual IT Best Technology Solution for the Public Sector Award

Winner: Silverstripe

IBM Most Innovative Company Award

Winner: 90 Seconds

ATEED Best Technology Solution for the Creative Sector Award 

Winner: 90 Seconds

Callaghan Innovation Maori Innovation Award

Winner: Precision Seafood Harvesting 

Duncan Cotterill Innovative Software Product Award

Winner: Movio

Endace Innovative Hardware Product Award

Winner: Aeroqual

Vocus Communications Innovative Services Award

Winner: Flick Electric

NZTE Most Innovative Agritech Product Award

Winner: Outpost Central

Quick Circuit Innovative Mobile Award

Winner: Serato

New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Hi-Tech Start-up Company of the Year

Winner: Figured

Coretex Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year 

Winner: ARANZ Medical

PwC NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year Award 

Winner: Vista Group

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