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Acquisitions Solidify Sofradir’s Place in IR Arena

Dec. 9, 2012 - 02:36PM   |  
By PIERRE TRAN   |   Comments
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PARIS — Sofradir has agreed to acquire advanced infrared detector activities from fellow French companies Sagem and Thales for an undisclosed amount, marking a further step in consolidation in the IR industry, Chief Executive Philippe Bensussan said.

The acquisition widens Sofradir’s portfolio beyond legacy technology based on mercury cadmium telluride and allows the company to offer the most appropriate technology for a defense and space application, he said.

“We will be one of the only companies to have all these technologies,” Bensussan said.

“This is very good,” said François Chopard of consulting firm Impulse Partners. “This is a consolidation move in a domain where critical mass is needed in size and technology. This will facilitate and make them more dynamic in export markets.”

Besides in optronics, similar consolidation moves should be taken in other domains such as biometrics in the security market, Chopard said.

The Sofradir board is also expected to decide soon on a new site for its head office and production and research facilities.

Several locations are being considered, including one at the Saclay Plateau technology park on the southwest outskirts of Paris.

Sofradir is jointly owned by Sagem’s Safran and by Thales.

Sofradir supplies infrared components for electro/optical kits such as night-vision goggles, thermal-imaging cameras, aircraft gimbal turrets and missile launch detectors.

Under the deal, Sofradir is acquiring IR technology based on indium antimonide from Sagem; and quantum well infrared photodetectors and indium gallium arsenide from the III-V research lab, jointly owned by telecom equipment maker Alcatel Lucent, the atomic energy commission Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives and Thales.

Sofradir will work with III-V on research and development in different fields, which may include superlattice technology, Bensussan said.

Superlattice allows semiconductors to operate at higher temperatures.

The purchase covers labs, manufacturing, commercial contracts worth a few million euros and some 40 staff. The deal goes into effect Jan. 1.

Bensussan has previously tried to persuade AIM of Germany and Selex Galileo of Britain to pool research technology efforts, but his attempts have met with little interest.

The acquisition is seen as widening the gap between Sofradir and its European competitors.

Sofradir expects to post higher 2012 sales of 158 million euros ($206.5 million) compared with 150 million in 2011.

The French procurement office, the Direction Générale de l’Armement, has pushed Safran and Thales to consolidate their optronics businesses.

The two companies responded in part last year — consolidating their 50-50 joint holding in Sofradir by buying out a 20 percent stake held by Areva, a nuclear energy company.

Safran and Thales also formed a joint venture, Optrolead, to work on new military optronics programs, including an optronics turret for a planned upgrade of the Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft.

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