Jobs to go as Blis heads for a record loss

Dunedin jobs are to go at cash-strapped Blis Technologies, which is restructuring and moving out of its University of Otago address at the Centre for Innovation to new premises.

Yesterday, Blis further downgraded expected annual losses, edging towards a record $2 million loss for the year, fuelled by about $500,000 in restructuring and relocation costs.

This financial year will be Blis' ninth consecutive - and largest - loss. Its losses since listing on the stock exchange in 2004 total $9.8 million.

While plans are not finalised, Blis could make up to three staff redundant, with 12 employed by the time they moved to Birch St in about eight weeks. The new base was the Gourmet Ice Cream Company headquarters, Blis director and almost 25% co-shareholder Tony Offen said when contacted yesterday.

While production and sale of probiotic ice cream and roulades under the Gourmet brand will cease, Mr Offen hoped to license out the probiotic brand.

''It's been very important to get the Blis concept out there, showing our technology can be delivered through [foods] to supermarkets,'' Mr Offen said of Blis' $225,000 purchase of Gourmet Ice Cream in April 2011.

Blis manufacturers oral probiotic bacteria, to treat bad breath and sore throats, in a range of products including lozenges, gum, powders, ice cream and yoghurt.

Blis gave guidance last year it expected to book an $800,000 loss for the year to March 2013, then in August upped that to $1.3 million. Yesterday, it restated the expected loss at $1.8 million.

A year ago, Blis shares hit a high of 4.2c, but plunged to about 1c for most of the remainder of the year before retracing some value, trading about 2.5c yesterday.

In September last year, when launching a capital-raising which eventually gained it $1.31 million, Blis warned shareholders further capital-raising ''would likely be required'', in 2014.

Mr Offen said budgets and financial planning for the year ahead were under way, and when asked if capital-raising may be brought forward to 2013, he said there was at present ''no change to guidance'' that capital-raising was likely in 2014.

When asked about a deferred product launch in China last year, Mr Offen said a Chinese distributor was working on a launch, possibly by the end of the year, subject to gaining regulatory approvals.

Some of those approvals had been problematic and time-consuming for Blis, but Mr Offen highlighted success with exports to Asia, Europe, Australia and the United States. The $1.31 million capital raised last year was earmarked for launching its Blis K12 ice cream, Blis M18 dietary supplements and international product sales.

Craigs Investment Partners broker, Peter McIntyre, said another capital-raising ''appeared imminent''.

''[However] shareholders will be becoming sceptical. Time is catching up with Blis and they really need revenue to right the balance sheet,'' he said.

Mr McIntyre noted that while product was getting out to overseas destinations, Blis had been ''road-blocked at several turns'' during the past two to three years in gaining regulatory acceptances and getting product into markets. It

had also been let down by one large distributor.

''They have little option but to restructure to buy more time, then get a recovery under way and right its [previous] losses,'' he said.

Mr Offen said while the Centre for Innovation served its requirements, it was configured for research laboratories, and ''efficiencies and cost'' would be gained at the Birch St site, including from production functions which had been outsourced until now.

The products
• Blis manufactures orally-taken probiotic products including for gum disease and tooth decay (Blis M18) and strep throat, immune system health for colds and flu, bad breath (Blis K12), when coming off antibiotics, middle ear infection, immune system support, tonsillitis (Blis Throat Guard) and travelling (Blis Travel Guard)
• Only certain bacteria produce Blis (bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances), natural antibacterial agents used to help control undesirable bacteria implicated in diseases.
• Delivered in lozenges, gum, powders, ice cream and yoghurt.

Bottom line since 2004
• 2005 loss-$1.33 million
• 2006 loss-$ 1.1 million
• 2007 loss-$964,000
• 2008 loss-$616,000
• 2009 loss-$487,000
• 2010 loss-$482,000
• 2011 loss-$1.38 million
• 2012 loss-$1.7 million
• 2013 forecast loss-$1.8 million

- There are 669.59 million Blis shares on issue, which at 2.5c each yesterday, gave Blis a market capitalisation of $16.7 million.


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