If Auckland’s NZ Aerial Mapping and Animation Research of Dunedin had not bought Terralink, it could easily have been a powerful competitor under new ownership, says ARL managing director Ian Taylor.
The two companies made a pre-emptive offer to receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers that if other bidders were not allowed to go through due diligence and tendering processes, they would be prepared to pay what they judged — and what turned out to be — a premium for Terralink. That offer was accepted and formally announced by the receivers on May 11.
“Looking at the general information given to all bidders, we thought that if all their books were opened to everyone, a lot of the value to us would disappear,” Taylor says, because commercially sensitive work that Terralink was involved in would have become more generally known.
There was no particular piece of Terralink work ARL or NZAM knew was worth protecting in this way, he says. The offer was made on a general principle of good commercial sense. “If I’d gone through a tender of any kind for any company — not just Terralink — I would come out knowing our competitors would have seen all the affairs of the company, which were now our affairs, and that wouldn’t be good for us.”
The consortium will be treading cautiously with regard to moving into new areas — or casting its eyes back towards participation in the Landonline online surveying and titles project, which sank Terralink. In the early days, Taylor says, “it will be business as usual” for Terralink, which has continued involvement in some lucrative mapping projects, and while in receivership has added staff to meet the needs of a US client.
“We agree with the general principle behind Landonline, that there is a lot of good [land] data that should be online. How we might approach [a new participation in the project] would depend on the state of the job. I’m certainly not saying we’re going to dive straight back in there, but it’s certainly something worth looking at. We’ll concentrate on our own data [including Terralink’s] first,” exploring the possibilities of further internet distribution of that, he says.
He was not prepared to discuss the price ARL and NZAM paid for Terralink’s assets “and I can’t say how much of a premium we paid, because I don’t know the level of the other [indicative] bids. When we put forward the price we didn’t even know for certain if it was a premium. We offered what we thought it was worth to us.”
ARL, perhaps best known for its involvement in the Virtual Spectator America’s Cup animation, and NZAM, a leading aerial mapping and surveying company, have worked together for some years. A year ago, they founded a joint venture called eMap to combine aerial mapping with geographic information systems (GIS).
The consortium is likely to keep the Terralink name, and the website attached to it, active in the market. “Terralink” may even in time be predominantly used over its owners’ names — though this is undecided as yet. “It is a well-known and respected brand,” says Taylor.