The collapse of a Queensland start-up that manufactured robotics for the military is far worse than we first thought.
The collapse of a Queensland start-up that manufactured robotics for the military is far worse than we first thought.

Robotics firm’s collapse worse than first thought

The collapse of a Queensland start-up that manufactured robotics for the military is far worse than we first thought.

Sunshine Coast entrepreneur David Baird tipped his firm Praesidium Global Pty Ltd into administration last month and told City Beat at the time that it only had debts of around $250,000.

He blamed COVID-related pressures for destroying the business, which launched in 2016 and built unmanned ground vehicles for the ADF and overseas buyers.

But according to a report released this week by administrator Gavin Morton, the company actually fell over with debts of $1.84m, with the vast majority owed to unsecured creditors who almost certainly will recover nothing from the wreckage.

David Baird
David Baird

The biggest single one is a related-party investor who committed $900,000 to the ill-fated venture, while trade creditors are out of pocket by almost $254,000 and the tax man is chasing nearly $219,000.

Morton also revealed that Praesidium had less than $20 in the bank and never turned a profit. Instead, it incurred continual annual net losses since the 2017 financial year totalling $845,000.

"From my preliminary investigations, it appears that the company was insolvent since at least 30 June 2018,'' he wrote, flagging a possible future claim against Baird for the alleged infraction.

Records show Baird also controls a separate and intact company, Disruptive Defence Technology Pty Ltd, and his missus, Sharon Baird, remains the sole director of an entity called Baird Technology Pty Ltd which was only created in April last year.

Gavin Morton
Gavin Morton

Morton discovered that Praesidium paid almost $80,000 in "consultancy fees'' to Baird Technology last May, noting that he may try to claw that back as a "voidable transaction''.

After the ADF decided against renewing its contract with Praesidium last June, the company was evicted from its premises in Caloundra West, the report said.

Employees were then seconded to Baird Technology between September and November as Praesidium pinned its hopes for survival on an overseas contract that never eventuated.

Meanwhile, disgruntled investors sued Praesidium in the Brisbane Supreme Court last February over a share registry dispute that's now been rendered moot by the company's crash.

Creditors are scheduled to hold their second meeting on February 26, when they are expected to liquidate the company based on Morton's recommendation.

It still remains unclear who or what controls the company's intellectual property, the only potentially valuable asset.

David Baird, a former armed forces operative and electronics engineer from the UK, did not return a call seeking comment on Friday.

CHALKING UP RUNS

Novonix just seems to keep chalking up runs on the board.

The Brisbane battery technology outfit aims to solidify its existing foothold in North America, announcing plans on Friday to develop and manufacture energy storage systems with Canadian giant Emera Technologies.

The deal, which sent Novonix shares up 15 per cent to close at $3.31, comes after the firm revealed last month it had received a $5.6m grant from the US Department of Energy.

Novonix also disclosed in January that it had retained Nova Scotia-based Professor Jeff Dahn as its chief scientific adviser.

That development put a rocket up the share price because Dr Dahn works closely with Tesla.

Originally published as Robotics firm's collapse worse than first thought


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