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BAE Systems to buy satellite maker Ball Aerospace

Ball Aerospace builds the Weather System Follow-on – Microwave (WSF-M) environmental satellite for the US Space Force. (Ball Aerospace)

BAE Systems plans to expand its presence in the fast-growing space market by acquiring satellite manufacturer Ball Aerospace for GBP4.3 billion (USD5.6 billion) in cash, the UK-based defence contractor announced on 17 August.

Headquartered in the US state of Colorado, Ball Aerospace builds satellite buses and the instruments and sensors that go aboard spacecraft. Its non-space products include the communications, navigation, and identification antenna suite for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and the ship-based, threat-detecting SeaSparrow/Stalker long-range sensor system. Its customers include the US Department of Defense, US Intelligence Community, and NASA.

“The proposed acquisition presents a really unique opportunity to add a high-quality, technology-focused business with hugely relevant capabilities” to BAE Systems' existing multidomain portfolio, BAE Systems chief executive Charles Woodburn said during a conference call with analysts.

BAE Systems officials indicated they were impressed with Ball Aerospace's recent and projected growth rates. Ball Aerospace almost doubled its annual revenue over the last five years to USD2.2 billion and could reach USD4 billion in revenue by the end of the decade, BAE Systems chief financial officer Brad Greve said. BAE Systems has been interested in Ball Aerospace for years but did not believe it would be sold, according to Woodburn.

“It's rare that a business of this quality, scale, and strategic fit [and] with such strong growth prospects becomes available,” Woodburn said.

Ball Corporation, Ball Aerospace's parent company, said it is selling the business to reduce its debt and focus on its main activity of making aluminium cans for beverages and other consumer products. Ball announced in June that it was considering “options” for its Aerospace business.

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