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Trading of Helix Shares Begins in U.S.

Times Staff Writer

Shares of Helix Systems Ltd., a Canadian company whose operations are mainly in Canoga Park, are being traded in the United States for the first time. The stock previously was traded only on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, although it was available to investors in this country through two Canadian brokerages.

Helix, which has 32 employees, is not well-known here. The 3-year-old company is a small player in the business of durable computer memory equipment, which is used in harsh military and industrial environments that more conventional memory systems might not withstand.

Promise Seen

Michael A. Shear, a Thomson McKinnon vice president in New York, said his brokerage firm decided to trade the stock--over the counter--because Helix has promise in the field of industrial automation.

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“It’s pretty much an unknown quantity in the United States,” he acknowledged.

Helix went public in June, 1984, and has 6.4 million shares outstanding; 4.4 million of those are restricted and cannot be traded freely, however. Spokesman Daniel K. Benton said restricted shares are held by the company’s principal founders.

Among those founders are Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Abrams, who is a physician by training. Another is physicist Bruce McKay, who pioneered bubble technology for microcomputers. Both work in Canoga Park.

On Monday, Helix shares closed at a bid price of $1.29.

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Helix went public in Canada because it was approached by a large Canadian brokerage, Abrams said. The addition of a U.S. market maker is important because it will enable the company to achieve a much wider ownership.

Helix lost about $216,000 on sales of $1.0 million during 1984, Abrams said. He said that, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, it lost about $70,000 on sales of $400,000, compared with a similar loss on sales of $45,000 for the year-ago quarter.

Helix products often employ bubble technology, a variety of solid-state memory considered extremely durable, said George Weiser, editor of the newsletter Computer Industry Update. It can withstand great cold, for example, and isn’t disturbed by a little knocking around. Also, unlike some memory systems, data in a bubble memory is not lost when the power supply is cut.

But the market for bubble memories is limited, said David Vellante, a market analyst with International Data, a consulting firm.

‘Niche Product’

“It’s more of a niche product,” he said. “It doesn’t have the capacity” of hard disks, and it costs more than floppy disk memory equipment.

Also, he said, although floppy disks can be a fragile medium for storing computer data, so many are already in use that it would be difficult to change.

Bubble memory systems are used in some portable computers, Weiser said. Benton said the cost of the technology has come down, making it more competitive.

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Helix customers include the Big Three auto makers, the U.S. government and large aerospace companies, Abrams said.


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