30 NextInsight readers visited Trek last Saturday, Nov 13. Sharing interesting insights into Trek's business prospects and its latest products were chairman and CEO Henn Tan (standing), CFO Gurcharan Singh (standing, right) and Poo Teng Pin (left), director of R&D. All photos by Leong Chan Teik

Visitors were entertained by Henn's quips.

HENN TAN, the chairman and CEO of Trek 2000, shared insights into the technology roadmap for some key products of his company, saying the future for Trek is exciting.

He assured his audience of 30 NextInsight readers who visited Trek on Saturday, Nov 13: “What I share with you is concrete. What I have said is indeed happening.”

He added: “I have seen companies go on roadshows and then the major shareholders are the first to sell their shares and the heartlanders lose money. That’s not me. I am protective of my shareholders. I came from a poor family.”

Henn, as he wishes to be called, is an engaging speaker who can keep his audience riveted to his story, which he sometimes spices up with Hokkien expressions and off-colour jokes.

And he is not so poor these days.

He is the single largest shareholder of Trek with his 35% stake, which is worth about S$46 million based on the company’s recent $132 million market capitalization and stock price of 44.5 cents.

Trek’s No.2 shareholder with a stake of about 18% is Toshiba Corporation of Japan, a holding that has raised speculation such as whether Toshiba could one day make a general offer to buy over Trek.

NextInsight readers on the visit included an A*STAR research scientist with a PhD who is also a Trek shareholder, and a few savvy professionals with IT background.

A key value of Trek is its library of patents, as Henn said, though the company has not done a valuation of these assets.

He added that the company is not short of suitors who want a stake in it – equity funds as well as technology companies eyeing Trek’s patents and business. "Some want us to be their concubine," he quipped.

The wooing could heat up as Trek releases a handful of products from this year which has vast market potential.

That’s why the stock is now at its highest level in about four years, boosted by a recovery in earnings (9M earnings this year was up 197% to US$2.4 million) but, more significantly, by expectations of an earnings surge from next year as it delivers possibly killer products.

Tough questions from Ng Chee Meng, a full-time investor

FluCard and the i-Ball

For starters, there is the FluCard, which will be incorporated into millions of digital camera makers from next year to enable photos to be transmitted wirelessly from camera to camera and to other devices.

Henn recalled how he knocked on the doors of Japanese camera makers and they were bowled over by the FluCard.

As a result, five top Japanese camera makers are in the midst of coming together to form a consortium to agree on a common platform for adopting the FluCard in new cameras.

The market size? Consider that in 2009, about 103 million digital cameras were produced worldwide.

While the potential is vast, Henn gave his visitors an idea of the challenges, such as getting the camera makers who are rivals to work together, and bringing the production cost of the FluCard down from being a few multiples of the cost of a Secure Digital (SD) card to just 20-25% higher than a SD card.

As Trek gets closer to that (target: 3 years' time), the SD card (which is a storage card found in many devices, including digital cameras) would be forced to fade away - which was what Trek's Thumb Drive has done to the floppy disk.

Another new Trek product is the i-Ball, the world’s smallest portable wi-fi remote camera.

Good questions from Mike Yeo, a full-time investor, after an appetising lunch of Boon Tong Kee chicken rice, courtesy of Trek.

As Henn revealed, it is not just about selling the hardware. The i-Ball (and the FluCard) will have apps and accessories to make it far more interesting to use – and rake in more dollars for Trek.

For example, though the i-Ball has a battery lifespan of 1.5 hours, a customized adapter can be purchased from Trek to connect it to the main electrical supply.

The i-Ball can then be used, for example, for transmitting video images endlessly from your home to your smart phone or computer in the office.

The i-Ball retails for S$119 each with GST, a far cry, price-wise, from conventional wired surveillance camera systems.

“Things are going to get very exciting. I don't guarantee success but I am committed, my team is committed, Toshiba is committed,” said Henn.

Henn fielding questions during lunch from Ong Beng Teck (right), former CFO of a listed company.

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