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5 May, 2006 - 11:09 By Staff Reporter

Sepura gearing towards London float

A company that went into administration in 2002 is being geared up for a London Stock Exchange float by its new management.A company that went into administration in 2002 is being geared up for a London Stock Exchange float by its new management.

Sepura, which bought the handset business of the Cambridge-based Simoco Digital Systems out of administration four years ago has appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to advise on the float.

Reports indicate that the co-head of Goldman Sachs Europe, Michael Sherwood holds a 32 per cent stake in Sepura.

Sepura designs TETRA (terrestrial trunked radio) terminals – the digital mobile private radio handsets used by the military and emergency services around the world.

TETRA is the internationally agreed standard for private mobile radio and is currently creating the same revolutionary impact on the emergency services and military market that GSM made on the mainstream mobile market as it migrates from analogue to digital.

A number of unique characteristics make TETRA ideally suited for use by the emergency services. It can establish a call between a large number of colleagues within half a second; it is encrypted which means an end to eavesdropping; and it carries voice and data. This means paramedics can transmit a critically ill or injured patient’s vital signs to a hospital en route in an ambulance.

The technology can trace its roots back to research conducted just after the Second World War and has been developed in Cambridge under the Pye, Philips, Simoco and now Sepura banners.

Developments at the company since the buy-out, the imminent float being the most obvious example, show that Simoco’s shareholders may have been a little hasty in calling in the administrators.

Commenting in a 2004 interview with Business Weekly, MD Graham Matthews said: “A good deal of the hard work had already been done by Simoco and before them, Philips and Pye. In my opinion, Simoco’s shareholders pulled the plug at a stage when it had a first-class product and the market was just about to take off.”

Sepura’s sister company, Artevea Digital, which is the new incarnation of Simoco’s TETRA infrastructure division has also risen phoenix-like from the flames of administration. The company announced in January that it was launching a recruitment drive to grow its Cambridge team.

The management buy-out of Sepura, led by Matthews, saved 75 jobs, but following continued success around the world, that number had grown to 131 by March last year. The company is now a thoroughly profitable concern, making profits after tax of £2.1m for the year ended March 2005 on sales of £35m.

The winner of Business Weekly’s East of England Business Awards International Trade category for 2005, the company generated sales of around £15m outside of the UK, with the majority of that figure from sales outside Europe. Sepura also had a comfortable cash position of £5.3m.

Sepura spent a significant £5.6m on R & D in that period, a continuing commitment that has borne fruit for the company. It was the first company in the world to incorporate GPS functionality in its handsets.

Developed in conjunction with QinetiQ, the GPS receiver allows a user’s position to be pin-pointed to within a few metres, even when inside a building. This is far more accurate than most commercially available GPS systems, which are accurate up to around 200 metres, not particularly useful in the life or death situations emergency services professionals find themselves in.

It also recently unveiled a special ‘Super-Spy’ version of its handset, together with a host of special agent accessories, aimed at the covert operations market. Small, light and with no display, sounds or interface that might give away its presence, the SRC3300 is already the world’s best-selling covert operations terminal.

It is worn on the body and controlled by a small remote control unit that fits in the palm, the technology includes end-to-end encryption, emergency alarm, tone signal and long battery life to suit the needs of staff in military, police and anti-terrorist scenarios.

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