Hi-tech UK manufacturer sucks up new foreign owner

  • @ArmitageJim

A historic slice of Britain’s engineering history was sold off to foreign buyers for the third time in seven years yesterday as Sweden’s Atlas Copco bought the vacuum technology business Edwards Group in a $1.6bn (£1bn) deal.

Edwards’ equipment is used to create flat-screen TV screens, aerospace turbine blades and microchips, but it was founded nearly 100 years ago.

It was owned by the British industrials group BOC until that was sold to the German firm Linde in 2006.

Linde sold Edwards on to the private equity firms CCMP of the US and Unitas Capital of Hong Kong for £460m in 2007.

They went on to float it on the US Nasdaq exchange, retaining 84 per cent but selling shares to big investors such as Goldman Sachs and Putnam Investment Management.

The sale to Atlas came just five months after Edwards’ chief executive, Matthew Taylor, the former JCB boss, was replaced by the industry veteran Jim Gentilcore.

Mr Gentilcore and Nick Rose, Edwards’ chairman and former finance director of Diageo, have been asked to stay with the business. Atlas said it would create a new vacuum division at Edwards’ base in Crawley, West Sussex.

Edwards employs more than 3,200 staff, hundreds of whom are based in the UK. There are no plans for major redundancies.

Ronnie Leten, the chief executive of Atlas, said he had been trying to buy Edwards since the BOC deal.

The price of $10.50 a share is 24 per cent above Edwards’ closing price of $8.45 on Friday. The headline $1.6bn takeover price includes $400m of net debt.