Laird swaps old economy for new with mobile technology deal

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was out with the old economy and in with the new yesterday when Laird Group sold its plastics distribution business and bought a technology firm that makes mobile phone antennae.

It was out with the old economy and in with the new yesterday when Laird Group sold its plastics distribution business and bought a technology firm that makes mobile phone antennae.

Laird Plastics was sold to Blackfriars, a private US company, for £35.7m. The group will focus on two divisions - Laird Technologies, which paid £106.8m for Centurion Wireless Technologies yesterday, and Laird Security Systems, which makes electronic locks.

Laird's shares jumped 4.5 per cent to 319p on news of the transactions. The Centurion deal will give Laird a leading position in wireless handset antennae for mobile phones and PCs, a growth area because of the spread of wireless internet connections, known as Wi-Fi, which require computers to pick up broadcast signals.

Peter Hill, Laird's chief executive, said antennae technology was complementary to its existing business that specialises in electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding. "By combining Centurion into Laird Technologies the enlarged business is expected to benefit from its broader product market offering and enhanced technical capabilities, as well as its ability to exploit the convergence of EMI shielding, thermal management and antennae technologies in the growing wireless markets," the company said.

Centurion, a US company, had sales of $139.7m (£85.2m) in 2003 with operating profits of $10.5m. For the six months ended June 30, 2004 the company had $80.7m of sales and operating profits of $5.5m. The deal involves Laird paying Centurion shareholders £63.2m in cash together with the issue of 14.3m new ordinary shares which brought the total value of the transaction to £106.8m.

The other Laird deal yesterday saw the company sell its plastics distribution business, which has annual sales of £127.7m and operating profits of £4m. The £35.7m price reflected the improvements in sales and profits achieved by the division's management team, Laird said yesterday.

"The disposal is in line with our strategy of repositioning the group to higher growth markets," Mr Hill said.

Comments