BAE Systems has reached an agreement to acquire Ball’s aerospace division, a significant player in the aluminium packaging industry, for $8.8 billion. This strategic move by the UK-based defense company aims to bolster its missile, space, and munition offerings during a period of increased government expenditure on weaponry.
According to a regulatory filing on Thursday, BAE Systems, headquartered in London, has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase Ball’s aerospace unit. This division is involved in the production of instruments and sensors for a wide range of applications, including space exploration and weather prediction. Reports from Bloomberg News had previously indicated that the companies were nearing a deal.
If the transaction is successfully concluded, it will stand as the largest deal in BAE Systems’ history. Following the announcement, BAE’s shares experienced a decline of up to 3.4% in London trading, with investors considering the financial implications of the acquisition. Nonetheless, BAE described this move as a “unique opportunity.”
As a prominent player in the defense industry, BAE Systems is a member of the consortium responsible for producing the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. The company’s shares have risen nearly 20% this year, driven by heightened military spending by governments. BAE’s product portfolio encompasses items such as Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and components for the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The potential acquisition aligns with BAE Systems’ focus on priority areas within defense and intelligence expenditure. This pursuit of Ball’s aerospace division coincides with a surge of dealmaking in the defense sector due to escalating global security concerns, which is in contrast to the broader trend of declining merger and acquisition activities.
Should the deal be successfully completed, it would mark the UK’s largest acquisition of the year. BAE Systems anticipates that the acquisition will have a positive impact on margins and earnings per share within the first year of completion. The financing for this transaction will involve a combination of new external debt and existing cash resources, with the company affirming its commitment to its established capital allocation policy.
Ball’s aerospace division is headquartered in Colorado and employs over 5,200 individuals, with more than 60 of them holding US security clearances. BAE Systems derives a substantial portion of its revenue from the US market, followed by the UK and Saudi Arabia.
The aerospace business being acquired by BAE Systems is projected to generate approximately $2.2 billion in revenue in the current year, with adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization of around $310 million. Over the past year, the aerospace and defense sector has witnessed an uptick in transaction values, rising by 4% to $35 billion.
Ball, based in Westminster, Colorado, had announced in June that it was exploring options for its aerospace division. Selling this division will enable Ball to concentrate on its core aluminium beverage packaging operations and reduce debt, which escalated following its acquisition of Rexam in 2016. The company has progressively divested assets since then, including the sale of its Russian operations to Arnest Group for $530 million last year. In a separate statement, Ball expressed its intention to enhance capital return to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends following the transaction.
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