Aurora Solar Technologies (ACU.V) is a leader in the development and delivery of inline process measurement, analysis, and control systems for solar cell manufacturers. ACU.V's products are used by some of the world's most advanced solar cell manufacturers for superior control of critical processes during solar cell manufacturing.
Coverage was initiated on January 2017, with notes issued on April 2017, June 2017, November 2017, March 2018, August 2018 , February 2019, September 2019 , June 2020, February 2021 and October 2021.
Nov. 30 - Announces Insight(TM) Wafer Tracking Agreement to Accelerate Market Entry: Agreement with Shanghai Baibart Intelligent Technology Co. Ltd. ("Baibart") for the development and supply of silicon wafer tracking systems to be used with Aurora's InsightTM data science product in the large China market. The wafer tracking solution with Baibart is being integrated with Insight as part of the recently announced evaluation project in China.
Silicon wafers are the primary raw material used in the manufacturing of solar cells. Tracking of these wafers through the cell manufacturing plant is necessary to provide Insight with the means to correlate cell efficiency information obtained from the end-of-line cell testers to specific instances of processing equipment in the plant.
Dec. 14 - Announces major customer acceptance and new patents for its DM measurement products: for an additional 20 DM units. The units are in operation at a large top-tier solar cell and module manufacturer based in China.
In addition to the above R&D grant, the Company has received new patent grants related to the DM products. China patent 107112255B and Taiwan patent No. I686598, both entitled “System for Measuring Levels of Radiation Reflecting from Semiconductor Material for Use in Measuring the Dopant Content Thereof” extend the protection of the most recent innovations in our core Infrared sensing Intellectual Property to the Chinese and Taiwanese markets.
Feb. 7 - Provides an update on its Insight data science product and associated strategic initiatives: Aurora’s initial evaluation of its Insight Essentials product is now complete. Due to customer constraints, there has been no financial consideration exchanged at this time. The Company will continue our focus on our larger-scale China-based evaluation as previously reported on November 30 and October 26, 2021. This project is underway and on track. Wafer tracking is to be installed and the Insight platform and use case evaluation period to start in March of 2022.
Mar. 3 - To Acquire BT Imaging to Accelerate Growth: BTi, a private Australian company, is a well-established leader in photoluminescence (PL) imaging tools for PV material inspection and quality control during production, and for laboratory use during product development. BTi's products are used in multiple parts of the PV supply chain - from silicon ingots and wafers, through to finished cells. They are found in industrial facilities and virtually all major research institutes throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
ACU.V has offered to acquire BTi through a share for share transaction in the amount of $16.2M, based on an Aurora share price of $0.20. The Offer is made under a Share Purchase Agreement between the shareholders of BTi and Aurora. Aurora's Offer has been initially accepted by 63% of all BTi shareholders, including 81% of its preference shareholders, which provides the pathway to acquire all of the shares of BTi based on its shareholder arrangements. The purchase price of the Offer is segmented into a fixed and a variable amount of $13.4M and $2.8M respectively.
The transaction is expected to close on or about May 31, 2022.
Mar. 25 -Announces Participation at 8th Annual AlphaNorth Capital Event: The Company also announces stock option grants to directors, officers and consultants totaling 3,900,000 options exercisable at $0.10 for a five-year term.
May 31 - Provides corporate update and announces appointment of David Robinson to Board of Directors:
BT Imaging Acquisition; Due diligence for the acquisition of BT Imaging Pty Ltd. (“BTi”), announced in March, is in progress and this transaction is now expected to close on or before June 30, 2022.
Insight update: The current Insight evaluation in China also continues to progress but its timeline has been impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions in China. These external factors are now easing, and the timeline will be updated in the coming month. These factors have not affected the planned introduction of Insight to top-tier solar cell manufacturers, which are underway with such manufacturers in SE Asia.
DM customer acceptance: Following from the volume customer acceptance reported on December 14, 2021, the Company continues to systematically develop and implement DM product enhancements to achieve further acceptances. The Company has recently made significant strides in this area, particularly with increased tolerance of high-variance HVAC conditions uniquely seen in China-based plant environments.
BOD Appointment: The Company is pleased to announce the appointment of David Robinson to the Board of Directors, effective May 12, 2022. David is a founder and partner in Calgary-based GCP Global Capital Partners, which has established a new energy transition fund on behalf of clients of Zurich-based Canopus Capital AG. David is currently Vice President of Business Development for Vancouver-based Columbia Capital Inc., which actively supports major Korean companies and investors, as they invest in the Canadian and global power and renewables sector.
July 5 - Provides Update on BT Imaging Acquisition and Announces Non-Brokered Private Placement: Acquisition of BT Imaging Pty Ltd. has significantly progressed with respect to due diligence and acceptances. It is now expected to close on or before July 29, 2022. The Company also announces a concurrent non-brokered private placement of units at a price of $0.10 per Unit for gross proceeds of up to $2,000,000. Each Unit will consist of one common share of the Company and one share purchase warrant to acquire a Share at an exercise price of $0.20 for a period of one year. The net proceeds will be used in connection with the Acquisition and associated transaction costs
In the last period, valuation ranged between $0.215 cents to $0.06 cents (a 52 week low).
Revenues continued to be absent for the last five quarters. Furthermore, Net Income losses for that period amount to $6.27M. As of December 31, 2021, Aurora Control reported $3.09M in cash.
ACU.V is estimated to have received more than 55 DM orders ( 13 + 14 + 10 + 11 + 9) from new and existing customers alike, including from the largest and top tiers solar manufacturers in China.
Unfortunately, ACU.V has not reported a single DM order in the last nine months. However, in December 2021, the company announced customer acceptance for an additional 20 DM units which are already in operation in China.
May 2022, Aurora Solar Technologies mentioned that it was continuing to "systematically develop and implement DM product enhancements to achieve further acceptances".
February 2022, ACU.V disclosed that the first evaluation of its Insight Essentials product was completed but was unable to receive payment due to "customer constraints", At the time, Aurora also stated that its other "larger-scale China-based evaluation" had begun and was "on track". with case evaluation to start March 2022.
At the end of May 2022, Aurora Solar indicated that the evaluaion was progressing but the timeline had been impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions in China.
In order to facilitate the introduction of Insight Essential, an alliance with Shanghai Baibart Intelligent Technology Co. Ltd. ("Baibart") was announced in late November 2021. Baibart was sought for its silicon wafer tracking systems. The Baibart system was being integrated for the current Insight Essential evaluation project in China.
March 2022, the buyout of BT Imaging was disclosed. BTi provides photoluminescence (PL) imaging tools for PV material inspection and quality control during production, and for laboratory use during product development.
BTi's products are used in the PV supply chain - from silicon ingots and wafers, through to finished cells. They are found in industrial facilities and virtually all major research institutes throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
Terms were a share for share transaction for $16.2M, based on ACU.V's share price of $0.20 cents. The Offer was reportedly accepted by 63% of all BTi shareholders, including 81% of its preference shareholders.
Note, the purchase price was segmented into a fixed and a variable amount of $13.4M and $2.8M respectively.
In conjunction with the BT Imaging acquisition, a non-brokered private placement at $0.10 per Unit (Warrant $0.20 cents; for a one year period.) for up to $2M was recently announced.
Aurora Controls continued to not generate revenues in the last five quarters. As of December 31, 2021, Net losses YTD for Fiscal 2022 were $3.17M with $3.09M of cash on hand. The cash balance is almost 7 months old and of concern.
However, the lack of DM (and TCM) sales is explained by Covid-19 restrictions in China. In addition, the install and customization process suggests that some issues need to be addressed in order for the product to be "accepted" by the end client. To date, 24 DM (43%) of the estimated 55 DM orders have been "accepted" while most are operational.
In the last update (May 2022):
..Company continues to systematically develop and implement DM product enhancements to achieve further acceptances.
Why is acceptance important? As per MD&A of February 28, 2022
Aurora has final payment obligations associated with timely installation and commissioning of these systems, and these challenges may impact customer objectivity in the Company’s efforts to achieve final acceptance. The Company has ascertained that some of these receivables may not be collectible and were provided for in the Fiscal 2021 year.
Similarly, failure to receive payment for the initial Insight Essential evaluation did not go unnoticed. Again, Covid-19 restrictions also impacted timeline of the second evaluation for which Aurora Controls has not provided few details.
This does not bode well, particularly since no sales were made as a result of the first Insight Essential evaluation.
Within this context, the acquisition of BT Imaging is positive as it is reportedly accreditive.
i) Accretive to earnings, based on additive sales and cash flow; ii) Acquisition of a strong brand and product line, supported by over 80 patents; iii) Expansion of the Company’s product line to become a larger-scale supplier delivering integrated systems to customers; iv) Diversification by product, customer and geography; v) Expansion of Aurora’s Chinese footprint in terms of customers, sales capabilities, technical resources, and product supply chain; vi) Strengthening of strategic relationships, including BTi’s partnership with the University of New South Wales’ School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering, a global center of excellence within the PV industry.; vii) Greater breadth and depth of skills and capabilities ranging from sales to software; viii) Synergies with research and development, product cross-selling and administration. ix) Expansion of institutional ownership.
BTI is private making it difficult to evaluate the deal but the company is part of Applied Materials Venture's Portfolio.
Shareholders are now waiting for this deal to close. The initial date of May 31, 2022 was pushed back to July 29, 2022.
Note, the $2M acquisition financing will add potentially 20M warrants at $0.20 cents to the total below.
Overall, Aurora's progress appeared to be slow in the last nine months mostly due to the Covid-19 restrictions in China. Perhaps, the closing of the BTI acquisition, along with the easing of restrictions will finally re-initiate revenues.
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