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Plextronics expects to be sold in bankruptcy auction

About John D. Oravecz

By John D. Oravecz

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A Carnegie Mellon University spinoff that produces a form of conductive inks — based on plastics — that are used in next-generation organic light-emitting diode displays, lighting and signs, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Plextronics Inc. of Harmar intends to sell itself in a bankruptcy court-supervised auction and has an agreement with Solvay America Inc., a plastics and chemical maker in Houston, to acquire the company.

The company's inks are suited for cutting-edge OLED devices, such as bendable tablet computers that are thinner and lighter than those sold today. Other uses could include displays set into unusual places, such as a refrigerator door.

Sony introduced an 11-inch OLED TV several years ago, priced at $2,500. A year ago, Samsung introduced a 55-inch model priced at $9,000. Experts say OLED technology will start to take off in 2016.

Plextronics has developed its technology to the point at which it is sold to customers, but “cash has been a problem,” spokesman Jim Dietz said. “We have product sales, but in a high-tech materials business, market adoption can be long and slow. While we see opportunities for scaling sales, our larger markets are still a few years away.”

Deitz said Plextronics' management investigated new financing plans but has been unsuccessful in finding new investors.

“We feel the company will be more stable after this sales process,” he said.

Plextronics filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition on Thursday in Delaware.

About 18 months ago, the company had about 72 employees, but the workforce has been reduced “to some extent,” Deitz said.

He declined to give specifics, including sales figures, because the company is privately owned.

Plextronics was founded in 2002 as a CMU spinoff based on conductive polymer technology developed by Richard McCullough.

McCullough, chairman, said Plextronics' management team assessed options and decided a bankruptcy auction is the best solution to “unlock the value of Plexcore inks.”

The so-called “stalking horse” bid by Solvay in a court-supervised auction is designed to set a floor for other bidders and obtain the best offer for Plextronics' assets. The value of Solvay's bid was not disclosed.

If approved by the court, the auction would require bidders to submit offers by Feb. 28. After the auction, the company said, it expects a closing by the end of March.

Plextronics said it has secured financing to remain in business during the process.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, many flexible and curved displays, such as curved OLED TVs and curved LCD TVs, were on display, said Touch Display Research Inc. analyst Jennifer Colegrove.

She forecasts that by 2020, the OLED TV market will reach $15.5 billion, and 2016 will be the takeoff year for OLED TVs, with billions of dollars of revenue each year after that.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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