17 Apr 2018
Updated registration statement from US-based fiber laser company prices stock at $13-15.
US-based laser diode and high-power fiber laser vendor nLight looks set to raise in the region of $70 million through its planned initial public offering (IPO) of stock.
According to an updated “S-1” registration filing with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Vancouver, Washington, firm will sell 5.4 million shares, with a target price of between $13 and $15 per share.
If sold successfully, that would represent a gross return of up to $81 million, rising to a maximum aggregate of just over $93 million if all over-allotment options are taken up.
In the statement, nLight estimates that it will pocket net proceeds of $68.4 million at the mid-point price of $14 per share, rising to a potential maximum of $78.9 million.
The latest move, which should see nLight listed under the “LASR” ticker symbol on the Nasdaq exchange, comes after seven rounds of venture finance, culminating in a “series G” round that raised around $26 million a year ago.
If nLight’s IPO goes ahead at $14 per share, it would imply a market capitalization of around $500 million for the company, which posted a small profit on sales of $138 million in 2017.
In the updated prospectus, nLight highlights what it believes are the advantages of its high-power fiber lasers over legacy products, with a focus on “programmability, serviceability, and reliability”.
“These advantages are a function of our vertically integrated business model, proprietary semiconductor laser technology, unique high-power fiber laser architectures and advanced in-house manufacturing methods,” states the firm.
Among the key elements claimed to be in nLight’s favor are its development and in-house production of high-brilliance laser diodes. “Our semiconductor lasers offer the industry's highest brilliance, and we believe are among the industry's most reliable,” states the company.
“Our lasers can endure extraordinary optical power densities because of our proprietary passivation technique applied to the emitting facet of the laser chip, operating reliably for extended operating cycles and with long operating lifetimes,” claims the firm, adding that its packaging, alignment, and coupling techniques are combined in an efficient, proprietary fiber laser architecture.
nLight also claims that the programmability of its laser designs provides a distinctive feature that makes them suitable for use in versatile, multi-function machine tools, allowing end users to replace multiple tools inside a factory with a single, more flexible tool.
In its prospectus, the firm states that its fiber lasers incorporate proprietary control hardware and software providing end users with the flexibility to optimize output power, as well as temporal and spatial beam shapes.
On the serviceability angle, nLight says that most servicing requirements can be completed without extracting the laser from its machine tool, and that on-site services generally take less than two hours.
And in terms of reliability, the company cites proprietary back-reflection suppression technology – important for laser processing of reflective metals like copper and gold – and “industry-leading” power stability as key advantages.
“We consider the power stability of our fiber lasers to be a particularly important differentiator for advanced and emerging applications, such as additive manufacturing, and in the development of versatile multi-functional machine tools,” adds nLight.
Alongside industrial applications of the technology, the company points out the potential opportunity now emerging in directed energy weapons, including ultra-high-power lasers based around multiple fiber sources combined to deliver in excess of 100 kilowatt output.
nLight's CEO Scott Keeney co-chairs a "task force" set up by the US National Photonics Initiative and the Directed Energy Professional Society. In 2016, it called for a co-ordinated strategy covering the development of high-power laser systems for defense and industry applications, under the guidance of a dedicated directed energy program office.
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