META, the Dartmouth-based advanced materials startup that in June became Atlantic Canada’s first publicly traded unicorn thanks to a reverse listing on the NASDAQ, will buy British Columbia’s Nanotech Security Corp. in a $90.8 million, all-cash deal.

Nanotech Security uses nanotechnology to create security holograms for bank notes and government ID cards. The company trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange with a market cap Wednesday of about $81.9 million, meaning META is paying about a $9 million premium.

META, previously called Metamaterial Inc., has signalled that the Nanotech Security acquisition is aimed at helping it scale its manufacturing capacity, as it looks to complete its first commercial plant in the first half of 2022.

“META's M&A strategy is focused on building scale and reducing production costs, enhancing our metamaterials manufacturing capabilities, and extending our market reach into new applications and industries," said META Chairman Ram Ramkumar in a press release.

"We believe the addition of Nanotech's ultra-precision, high-volume production capabilities should place META in a strong leadership position in commercializing metamaterials at scale."

Nanotech Security’s technology is used in more than 30 banknotes. Its current projects include a deal worth $30 million with an unidentified, but major central bank, signed in 2017. It will look to extend that contract later this year.

The company owns a 105,000 square foot factory in Thurso, Que., including 35,000 square feet of production space that meets the European Central Bank’s standards for its contractors. It also owns 47 patents.

“Nanotech is a strategic acquisition for META,” said META CEO George Palikaras in the press release. “It will add tested and cost-competitive production technology along with new products and customers to our portfolio.

"META plans to support expansion of Nanotech's Thurso, Quebec facility, approximately doubling its production capacity to 15 million square meters over the next 1-2 years, while META's new 68,000 square foot facility in Nova Scotia will support large OEM licensing opportunities, manufacturing training and product application development at pilot scale.”

META’s purchase of Nanotech Security is part of its foray into an array of industries, ranging from renewable energy generation, to biotech, to telecommunications.

Its current projects include a deal with Japan’s Sekisui Chemical to develop a film to reflect 5G radio waves; a deal with Houston, Texas-based Sage Geosystems to develop materials for building “subsurface thermo-electric generators”; and a recently completed 27-month joint project with the British government and London’s Brunel University to develop the prototype for a needleless blood glucose testing system.

META’s NASDAQ listing initially valued the company at about US$2.2 billion or C$2.7 billion. It has since shed almost two-thirds of its valuation and fallen to US$900.6 million or about C$1.1 billion, imperiling its unicorn status. META shares on Thursday gained 1.6 percent, closing at US$3.15, according to Google data.