The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Jetpack firm plans IPO

Listing next on agenda after naming of new chief exec as part of push to enter market.

The maker of the Martin Jetpack may go ahead with a sharemarket listing this year, its chairwoman says.

The Christchurch-based Martin Aircraft Company announced the appointment of a new chief executive yesterday and says it expects to commercially release its First Responder Jetpack - developed for police, search and rescue and other government uses - during the latter part of this year.

A slightly modified version, the Personal Martin Jetpack, would be released in 2015 and "transform the future of personal flight", the firm said.

Chairwoman Jenny Morel, of Wellington-based venture capital firm No 8 Ventures, said the company had been raising funds ahead of an initial public offer over the past 12 months and the appointment of Peter Coker, a former Royal Air Force pilot and international aviation expert, as chief executive was also part of the listing preparations.

"[An IPO] is possible this year - it's absolutely possible," Morel said.

"The company could become really huge so it would be great to have it listed."

She said the company could look to raise up to $20 million through a public offer to fund the establishment of manufacturing operations and sales and marketing staff around the world.

"We need to start a discussion with the brokers about how we should bring this company to market," Morel said.

In early 2011 the company was reported to be planning a sharemarket float during the first half of that year, but the offer never got off the ground.

A market source said the firm would be considered a very high risk investment and it was a tough sell two years ago.

"But there's no doubt - and it's a good thing - that the market is far more conducive to new opportunities than it has been for a while," the source said. Recent offers, such as craft beer maker Moa and meat retailer the Mad Butcher, have been heavily oversubscribed.

Morel said Martin Aircraft had made a number of technological advancements, including the testing of ducted fan technology, the development of a ballistic parachute, an impact-absorbing undercarriage and a carbon fibre pilot module.

"We have dramatically increased the overall performance of the Martin Jetpack and now with Mr Coker's extensive networks and experience across a broad spectrum of industry sectors on board, the next step is to launch the jet pack to commercial markets around the world."

Morel said the company did not have any customers lining up to buy jet packs at the moment.

"We haven't started that yet," she said. "We needed to get two elements in place - first of all having a prototype that's close to being a product and secondly having the new chief executive on board."

Martin Jet Pack

*Developed over more than three decades by Glenn Martin.
*Is actually propeller-powered.
*Capable of flying up to 50km at speeds of 100km/h.
*The company is targeting a price tag of US$100,000 ($118,000) for the recreational version of the aircraft.

- NZ Herald

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