Laird Pays $90 Million for PE-backed Cattron Group

London-based technology company Laird PLC said that it will pay $90 million for Cattron Group, a wireless and automation technology company owned by investors including private equity firms RFE Investment Partners, Weatherly Group, and Argosy Investment Partners. The deal will help Laird expand its software-driven products, the company said. Cattron is based in Sharpsville, Pa.

PRESS RELEASE
Laird PLC (“Laird”) announces today the acquisition of Cattron Group International, Inc. (“Cattron”) for a cash consideration of $90.0 million (GBP56.5 million) on a debt and cash free basis, with the consideration to be satisfied from Laird’s existing banking facilities.

Cattron is a leading designer and supplier of wireless control and automation products, systems and aftermarket services for the global industrial, rail and mobile markets. The acquisition will allow Laird to expand its wireless machine-to-machine (“M2M”) offering, building on its acquisitions of AeroComm, Inc. and Ezurio Limited in 2007 and 2008 respectively, as well as providing technology, product development and revenue synergies.

For the year ended 30 September 2010 Cattron’s unaudited revenues were $53.8 million (GBP34.5 million) and unaudited adjusted underlying operating profit before interest and tax was $10.7 million (GBP6.9 million). This represents an increase over the previous year of 35% and results in an operating profit margin for the year of 19.9%. Unaudited gross assets at 30 September 2010 were $41.8 million (GBP26.5 million). The acquisition is expected to be significantly earnings enhancing to Laird in 2011.

Cattron’s products control wirelessly the operations and movements of its customers’ equipment, enhancing safety and productivity. Cattron has developed close relationships with those customers; it now has a large installed base of its products, and in the year ended 30 September 2010 approximately 43% of Cattron’s revenues were from new products and systems and 57% from aftermarket services, parts and spares.

The acquisition will allow Laird to move further into more complete, software driven products and systems. Cattron’s future revenue growth is expected to be enhanced by market share gains as a result of its own new product development programmes, the evolving new applications for wireless control and automation systems globally, the replacement programmes planned by its North American and European customers for their own existing systems, and greater penetration of emerging markets.

Describing the benefits of the acquisition, Peter Hill, Chief Executive of Laird, said:

“The acquisition of Cattron will further Laird’s strategy of diversifying its customer and market base, and our ability to provide systems and aftermarket services to customers. The market for wireless control and automation systems continues to grow; Cattron is well placed to participate in this growth, while its combination with our existing Wireless Systems business is expected to provide further opportunities. Cattron has attractive financial characteristics, including high operating margins, low capital intensity and a significant proportion of aftermarket revenues, providing a sound base from which to develop further its businesses. Laird’s own financial position will remain strong following the acquisition.”

John Paul, Cattron’s CEO said “Cattron is very excited to join Laird, a truly world class company. Laird’s strength in wireless communications technologies, global operational capabilities, and access to growing international markets, will help Cattron to reach the next level of providing the best in safety and productivity solutions to our customers.”

For enquiries: Laird PLC Maitland
Peter Hill, Chief Executive Brian Hudspith
Jonathan Silver, Finance
Director
Tel: 020 7468 4040 Tel: 020 7379 5151

Laird PLC

Laird is a broadly based global electronics and technology company, supplying a wide range of markets and applications. It is a leader in the design and supply of customised, performance critical products and systems, for wireless and other advanced electronics applications.

Cattron Group International, Inc

Cattron designs, develops and manufactures wireless controlled automation systems for industrial and rail applications (where it is the market leader in North America and Western Europe for rail applications) as well as a range of mobile, mining and other applications.

It designs, produces and services ruggedized wireless communication systems to control the operations of rail locomotives, track alert systems, overhead travelling cranes, materials handling systems, construction equipment, industrial processes, and surface and underground mining and tunnelling equipment and communications.

For the fiscal year ended 30 September 2009, Cattron reported audited profit before tax of $3.7 million (GBP2.4 million) under US GAAP and gross assets of $39.9 million (GBP25.1 million).

Cattron has design, production, sales and service facilities in the USA, Canada and Germany, and sales and service offices in Brazil, China, South Africa and the UK. It employs some 290 people, of whom 47 are engineers. It has a strong technology base with R&D expenditure being approximately 10% of revenues.

Cattron will continue to be managed by its existing CEO, John Paul, within Laird’s Wireless Systems Division.

Cattron’s shareholders include private equity firms RFE Investment Partners, Weatherly Group, Argosy Investment Partners, and other investors, with approximately 8% owned by management and employees.

Laird will be hosting an audio webcast presentation and conference call at 9am (GMT) today. The webcast will be available via the following link: http://www.axisto.com/webcasting/investis/laird/investor-event-2010/