Qinetiq expands in US with £72m deal

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The Independent Online

Qinetiq, the defence technology group which was spun out of the public sector last year, further strengthened its presence in the American market yesterday by unveiling its second US acquisition in a week.

The company, which is planning to float in the next 18 months to two years, is paying $130m (£72m) for Westar Aerospace and Defense, a St Louis-based company specialising in avionics, missile technology and testing and evaluation.

The deal follows Qinetiq's $163m purchase last week of Foster-Miller, another US contractor which specialises in robotics, body armour and advanced composite materials.

Together, the two acquisitions will increase Qinetiq's sales in the US to $290m - representing almost a fifth of group turnover. The US is the biggest defence market in the world and one of Qinetiq's top three priorities is to grab a bigger share in readiness for its planned stock market listing. The company is 56 per cent owned by the Ministry of Defence and 32 per cent by the US private equity group Carlyle, with its 9,000 employees owning the remaining 12 per cent.

The Westar and Foster-Miller acquisitions will lift Qinetiq's turnover to about £1bn. The privately owned Westar, which was founded in 1986, has 900 employees and sales of more than $140m. Its management team, led by the president and chief executive Rob Topping, will remain with the company.

Sir John Chisholm, Qinetiq's chief executive, said: "We intend to spend the next year bringing our acquisitions successfully into the group before we consider the possibility of an IPO."

The Qinetiq deal came as BAE Systems made further inroads into the US by agreeing to buy DigitalNet Holdings, a supplier of secure computer networks to the Pentagon, for just under $600m (£333m).