Investors who mortgaged their homes to invest in a Christchurch tech firm could earn tens of millions of dollars from a billion-dollar deal struck this week and the benefits are expected to trickle through the city’s economy.
Christchurch success story Seequent, which employed just one person in 2004 and specialises in modelling ground conditions, has been bought for US$1.05 billion (NZ$1.46b).
Seequent, which now employs 430 staff, including 173 in New Zealand, said it planned to grow its Christchurch research base by adding 50 new jobs
Seequent was already mostly foreign-owned after Silicon Valley firm Accel-KKR took a 75 per cent stake in the business in 2018.
Nasdaq-listed Bentley Systems had now agreed to acquire that stake along with the 25 per cent of the firm that was still owned by New Zealand and overseas private investors, including some staff.
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A lot of folk will benefit and why shouldnt they, Seequent chief executive Shaun Maloney said.
They have worked hard and mortgaged their house to put skin in the game, but this is very much a growth story and will continue to be so.
Seequent chief executive Shaun Maloney says the buy-out will put aviation fuel in the gas tank.
Because of its size, the acquisition is subject to approval by the Overseas Investment Office.
Maloney, who will retire next month, said it would be onwards and upwards for the company.
He took the helm three weeks before the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake, after spending 10 years working for another tech firm in the United Kingdom.
We wanted to give our staff here some security, especially since many of them were going back to broken homes, so we were ambitious about our growth.
We knew we had to be revenue positive from the get go. Its progressed in leaps and bounds since then.
He was humble about his contribution as the businesses leader, and said Seequents success had been helped by two key pieces of advice.
I was told to always employ people smarter than you, and always employ people who make you look good.
I know it’s a cliché, but this is not a business, but a team of 430.
Maloney said the company has already posted 40 of the 50 new jobs on offer, employing staff from a diverse range of fields such as marketing and communications, and research and development.
Seequent also employed local accountants, lawyers, and financial services providers, and Maloney said he was looking forwards to seeing the cash flow through Christchurchs economy, even if it was from his lifestyle block in Ohoka.
The big winners here will be Christchurch, our employees, and our customers globally.
Maloney said the company had also been supported by great local partners from the start, including New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and the Callaghan Innovation.
Seequent modelled everything from ice sheets to mineral deposits, while Bentley specialised in modelling underground structures from foundations to tunnels, so its expertise was complementary, he said.
Almost all of Seequents customers were overseas, and Bentley would continue to run Seequent as a separate business unit.
Their influence is pouring aviation fuel into our gas tank.
ChristchurchNZ innovation general manager Boyd Warren said the deal was a great endorsement of Canterburys technology sector from what began as quite a humble Canterbury company.
He said it was great news that the company would stay in Christchurch and bring more high value jobs to the city.

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