Apple buys NZ’s PowerbyProxi

Apple has bought Auckland wireless recharging company PowerbyProxi for an undisclosed sum.

Apple Australia-New Zealand spokesman Alex Wadron confirms the sale, and that Apple wants to keep the business in New Zealand, but says his company will be making no further comment.

At this point, the Companies Office still lists Movac as the largest shareholder on 20%, followed by chief executive Fady Mishriki (18%), US company TE Connectivity (11%; TE Connectivity paid $US5 million for its stake.), NBR Rich Lister John Holdsworth (11%) a consortium of investors including Rich Lister Phil McCaw (10%) and Samsung 10%. Smaller investors include The Icehouse and Ice Angels (both 1%).

PowerbyProxi was born out of Uniservices, the commercialisation arm of Auckland University, which is listed with a 3% stake.

Samsung paid $US4 million for its 10% stake back in 2013, indicating the sale price could be north of $US40 million ($NZ55 million). Given Apple's cash on hand is larger than NZ's GDP, the sale price could have been 10 times that without triggering material disclosure.

PowerbyProxi, formed in 2007, holds 350 patents covering technologies for wirelessly transferring power between manufacturing equipment and the likes of wind turbine components and, at the consumer end of the scale, for wirelessly recharging phones – a feature Apple introduced with its latest models (Samsung featured wireless charging with its Galaxy S6 released in 2015, though not sourced from a PowerbyProxi licensee. The Kiwi company did take heart that Samsung adopted the Qi wireless charging standard that it backs over a rival standard, however).

The company was still at a very early stage in terms of collecting revenue, with a focus on licensing its technology rather than selling its own products. Early licensees include US giant Texas Instruments.

PowerbyProxi received at least one grant from Callaghan Innovation, with indications it qualified for up to $15 million in matching R&D funds over a three year period. The grant was in 2014, making it likely outside Callaghan's three-year clawback period in the event of a sale. In any event, the taxpayer-subsidised intellectual property is now owned by Apple.

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