OHB Technology Buys Belgian Division from Thales Alenia Space

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BREMEN, Germany — OHB Technology of Germany has purchased Thales Alenia Space’s Antwerp, Belgium-based satellite ground hardware manufacturing company in a cash transaction that gives OHB a foothold in Belgium and divests Thales Alenia Space of a division it no longer viewed as central to its business, the two companies announced July 19.

Thales Alenia Space Antwerp NV reported revenue of about 10 million euros ($14 million) in 2009. Industry officials said the company, which Cannes, France-based Thales Alenia Space had been trying to sell or merge into another Thales Alenia Space division, was only marginally profitable.

Thales Alenia Space Antwerp, which counted 80 employees until a couple of years ago, now has a staff of 42.

OHB Technology Chief Executive Marco R. Fuchs said in a July 19 interview that Bremen-based OHB has long sought a Belgian division and had tried to purchase Verhaert Space of Kruibeke, Belgium, before that company was purchased by QinetiQ Group of Britain and renamed QinetiQ Space NV.

Fuchs said the Belgian government, which in the past has invested more in space per capita than any other nation in Europe, continues to be a strong supporter of space activities.

Fuchs declined to disclose the transaction price but said it was less than the annual revenue of the Antwerp operation. OHB, he said, likely will be adding staff as part of OHB’s contract to build 14 Galileo navigation satellites for the European Union.

A Thales Alenia Space official said the sale should not be viewed as part of a retrenchment by Thales Alenia Space, whose main production plants are in France and Italy. The company has no intention of selling Thales Alenia Space ETCA of Mont sur Marchienne, Belgium, which employs more than 600 people and in fact intends to make further investments to expand the ETCA facility, the official said.

The Antwerp operation builds ground stations used with Earth observation and telecommunications satellite systems, and the network that will connect the ground stations to be used with Europe’s Galileo navigation and timing project.

“With this acquisition, OHB … pursues its European growth strategy with regard to European Space Agency member states,” OHB said in a statement on the purchase. “As ESA’s fifth-largest contributor, Belgium is a key player of future ESA programs.”