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How SA firms are responding to Ukraine ramifications


South Australian companies in the technology, mining and agriculture sectors are moving quickly to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by an unstable geo-political climate.

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The war in Ukraine and ongoing disruptions to supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to huge price spikes for oil and a number of other commodities such as wheat, uranium and agricultural minerals.

It has also resulted in hi-tech Tonsley company Micro-X partnering with a US charity to provide its portable X-ray units to be used in Ukrainian hospitals.

Micro-X is teaming with established charity Revived Soldiers Ukraine, which has purchased four Rover devices.

Manufactured in Adelaide,  the Micro-X Rover is an ultra-lightweight, highly mobile medical x-ray machine that delivers easier and simpler x-ray imaging for patients and faster workflow for radiographers.

The Rover was first designed for the Australian military as a mobile radiology solution for military hospitals, delivering the full spectrum of imaging solutions in support of combat operations or humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Chief Financial Officer Kingsley Hall said the four units were deployed within 24 hours and were now on their way to Ukraine, where they would be used to support the country’s health system.

The Micro-X Rover

“The Rover can be easily manoeuvred through hospital corridors to a patient’s bedside in a crowded ICU, or a military field hospital, and more easily and safely positioned by radiographers,” he said.

“Supporting humanitarian efforts is essential, and we appreciate that the capabilities of the Rover will be able to provide diagnostic services where they’re needed most.”

Micro-X, which posted a $9 million half-year loss last month, is also developing a miniature CT Baggage Scanner that can be incorporated into automated airport checkpoints.

On Friday it announced the design of its prototype had been accepted for approval by the US Department of Homeland security.

CEO of Micro-X’s Checkpoints Business Unit Dr Brian Gonzales said the project would now transition into the next phase of fabricating a full prototype for testing later this year.

“We are one step closer to the day where we can deploy our miniaturised baggage scanners in airports around the world, which will play a critical role in improving passengers’ airport security checkpoint experiences,” he said.

Spacetalk confident of stock levels despite Shenzhen lockdown

Fellow Adelaide technology company Spacetalk last week moved to assure shareholders the production of its smartwatches in China was not being disrupted by a lockdown in the city of Shenzhen, where the devices are manufactured.

The city of 12 million people near Hong Kong in the country’s south-east was last week ordered into a shutdown to combat China’s worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years.

Spacetalk, previously known as MGM Wireless, announced on March 15 that it expected the lockdown to last until at least this week. It has been partially lifted but non-essential businesses, like tech, continue to remain closed.

“Based on current information received, no material disruptions are expected,” it said in the statement last week.

“Spacetalk maintains supply chain buffers to mitigate inventory shortfall risk, and notes that it held approximately $5.0 million of inventories as at 31 December 2021.”

Centrex poised to capitalise on fertiliser price spike

Centrex’s Ardmore Phosphate Project.

Adelaide-based resources company Centrex Limited has commenced construction of its initial production plant near its phosphate mine in far west Queensland.

Plant commissioning is expected to take place in July with the first shipments in August.

The expansion, which also includes a larger commercial plant, ultimately aims to increase production to 800,000 tonnes a year.

It comes as global fertiliser prices skyrocket as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The conflict is sending ructions through Australia’s agricultural sector with the price of fertiliser forecast to rise by as much as a third in the coming months.

Fertiliser is one of the biggest input costs for Australian farms. Its price is already elevated due to the conflict’s impact on global supply chains.

Russia is a major global producer of fertiliser and its key ingredients, including phosphate.

In a statement to the ASX last week, Centrex said it was closely monitoring recent positive developments in phosphate rock prices and restricted supply, which continue to support the development of its Ardmore Phosphate Rock Project 130km south of Mount Isa.

It said February’s benchmark price for phosphate of US$172.50 per tonne was up 38 per cent on the US$125 per tonne figure Centrex used in its updated definitive feasibility study in August 2021.

Centrex’s share price has risen significantly in the past month from 7.5 cents per share on February 24 to 11.3 cents on Friday.

Boss launches $125 million to restart Honeymoon uranium mine

Perth-based Boss Energy has kicked off a $125 million equity raise to fund the development of the mothballed Honeymoon uranium mine in South Australia’s north-east.

Once the money is raised, the restarting of operations is expected to take about 18 months and if it proceeds, Honeymoon would again become the state’s third uranium mine and the fourth in Australia.

The price of uranium has been steadily rising in the past two years from US$23.50 per pound in February 2020 to almost $30 per pound in February 2021.

Last month the price was US$43 per pound and has risen further since as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, briefly topping US$60 per pound last week.

The price began surging in January following unrest in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer.

The Russian invasion of nearby Ukraine in the past month has further destabilised prices.

Boss predicts its life-of-mine average all-in sustaining costs are about US$25.60/lb.

Managing director Duncan Craib said the capital raise would ensure Boss is funded through to the start of production at Honeymoon.

“With the uranium market’s continuing recovery, Boss to be funded (post equity raising) and Honeymoon having a unique short timeframe to production with all permits in place, Boss will be perfectly positioned to become the uranium producer of choice for investors and customers alike,” he said in a statement to shareholders last week.

Strong prices prompt Elders to lift earnings guidance

South Australian agribusiness Elders is expecting to report a 20 to 30 per cent lift in earnings when its financial year ends on September 30.

The company told shareholders last week that it expects to report FY22 Underlying EBIT in the range of $200 – $217 million,  which is 20 to 30 per cent above FY21 Underlying EBIT.

It said the outlook exceeded forecast market expectations as a result of high prices and favourable seasonal conditions.

In November, Elders posted its financial year result for the 12 months ended September 30. It recorded a decade-high statutory net profit after tax of $149.8 million, up 22 per cent on the previous year.

“Elders’ performance so far in our financial year 2022 has been strong and exceeds our performance after the first five months of FY21,” Managing Director and CEO Mark Allison said.

“After finalisation of the February trading numbers, which continue improved earnings for the first quarter, we now believe we will exceed analysts’ consensus for the full year to 30 September 2022 and produce an Underlying EBIT result in the range – which is necessarily broad given we are only five months into our financial year – set out above.

“We have seen improvement in our Retail and Wholesale segments compared with the same time last financial year due to increased sales and favourable seasonal conditions in most parts of Australia.

“Our Agency business continues to perform strongly as a result of high prices in both sheep and cattle, offset to some extent by lower volumes due to restocking and the good availability of feed on farm.

“Real Estate is also exceeding expectations due to increased turnover and high demand.”

Elders share price reached $13.76 last week, its highest level since 2009, taking its market capitalisation to about $2.2 billion.

– with AAP

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