Monday 16 October 2017

Nippon Steel buys into €17m Openet fund-raising round

Japan's biggest steelmaker Nippon Steel president Shoji Muneoka (L) smiles with third-ranked rival Sumitomo Metal Industries president Hiroshi Tomono. Photo: Getty Images
Japan's biggest steelmaker Nippon Steel president Shoji Muneoka (L) smiles with third-ranked rival Sumitomo Metal Industries president Hiroshi Tomono. Photo: Getty Images

Roisin Burke

OPENET has raised €17m in fresh funds and added a major new investor. NS Solutions, a division of €60bn Japanese giant Nippon Steel, led the funding series and bought in for a €5.5m stake.

It has form for making decent tech bets -- Nippon Steel lent Oracle legend Larry Ellison €60m in the Nineties.

Ireland's biggest privately held technology company, Openet filed documents to float on the Nasdaq some months ago. However, the listing may be less certain against the background of eurozone and markets volatility.

Though round D finance is often seen as precursor to an IPO, chief executive Niall Norton won't be drawn on whether that's still on the cards.

"Where we're at is creating options for the board," he told the Sunday Independent. "Whether it's through the markets or private equity.

"We've put enough money into the company that we're not obliged to do anything, and yet we can still maintain our growth story -- so in that sense this funding is just an insurance policy. The shareholders can be a little more relaxed."

Long-time investors include Barry Maloney's Balderton, Cross Atlantic Capital and FTSE-listed SAIC.

Norton has just returned from the US, where he closed a deal with a major client for Openet's newest product, software that doubles battery life for iPads and smart-phones -- "game-changing stuff", he claims.

Shareholders were told recently that there were sales of about €90m and profits in excess of €8m for 2011.

Having recently added 35 staff, the company, which makes billing software for major telco clients like Vodafone and AT&T, is seeking to hire 50 high-skill people for permanent jobs based in Ireland. "Sourcing the right people here remains a challenge; we're competing with the likes of Google," he said.

Meanwhile tech watchers say buyer interest in the company is still strong; IBM and Cisco have been mentioned.

Sunday Indo Business

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