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08 May 08. The Wall Street Journal reports that Italian aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica SpA is in advanced talks to purchase New Jersey defense company DRS Technologies Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal would be a hefty addition for Finmeccanica, which has a range of interests, building everything from aircraft and missiles to underwater defense systems and air-traffic-control networks.

Exact details of the offer could not be learned Wednesday, but the price is expected to be a significant premium to DRS’s closing price, likely greater than 25%. Its shares sold for $63.74, up 67 cents, in 4 p.m. composite trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. DRS has a market capitalization of about $2.6 billion.

The deal would be the latest strategic move by European aerospace and defense companies maneuvering for better footholds in the world’s biggest defense market. It also would be a big national-security test for U.S. regulators, given the Italian government’s roughly one-third ownership of Finmeccanica.

DRS is a major supplier to the U.S. military, which uses its equipment in such frontline systems as the Aegis destroyer and Abrams tank. Law-enforcement agencies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also use its technologies.

The company was founded in 1968 by two former Loral Corp. engineers. Through dozens of acquisitions, it has grown into a major aerospace supplier, with revenue of $2.82 billion last year. Last month, DRS landed a big deal when it won a U.S. Army contract to provide Jordan with border-security systems, a milestone for the company in the Mideast.

Other European defense giants count on U.S.-focused operations, including European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. and BAE Systems PLC, which also have recently made significant U.S. acquisitions.

Already, Finmeccanica is involved in high-profile defense contracts, including providing helicopters to Lockheed Martin Corp. as part of a contract to replace the U.S. president’s fleet. Finmeccanica is supplying a cargo plane to the U.S. Army and Air Force as part of a contract led by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.

In 2005, BAE’s U.S.-based division bought armored-vehicle maker United Defense Industries for about $4 billion. It followed up by buying Armor Holdings, another maker of armored vehicles, for $4.5 billion in 2007.

Last month, EADS North America bought an emergency-response-systems company called PlantCML for $350 million.

Some lawmakers have set their sights on EADS after Northrop Grumman Corp. beat out Boeing Co. for a $40 billion Air Force jet contract. Northrop plans to bring Airbus jetliners to the U.S. and convert them into aerial-refuelling tankers.
DRS Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: DRS) today said in a statement that it is engaged in discussions contemplating a potential strategic transaction involving the company. There is no assurance that any agreement will be reached, and the company will have no further comment at this time.
BATTLESPACE Comment: If this succeeds it is a tribute to Mark Newman’s stewardship of DRS Technologies Inc. Over a period of ten years he has built the Company into one of the top First Tier Suppliers, making shrew acquisitions and never overpaying. He has assembled a strong team of professionals to build and manage this business and his outwardly laid back exterior belies a steely resolve inside! This was shown when he rebuffed Fran Lanza’s offer for L-3 to buy DRS two years ago. When the Editor first met Mark the Company was turning over $385m, the speed of growth is shown in the $3bn+ size it has grown to since his father started Diagnostic Retrieval Systems on Lon Island where Mark had a desk in 1968.

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