Private equity firm buys Laird in £1.2 billion deal

Global private equity firm Advent International has agreed a £1.2 billion takeover deal for UK tech firm Laird.

Laird shareholds will receive 200 pence per share, after Laird directors considered the deal to be ‘fair and reasonable’. Laird recently reported an annual operating profit of £76.9 million, up from £61.9 million. The company also completed a £185 million pound rights issue in April 2017 that reduced borrowings and altered its capital structure to enable investment and make it a more attractive commodity.

Chief executive Tony Quinlan said: “In my first year as CEO, we’ve simplified structures, enhanced the quality of the leadership and focussed on improving the efficiency and profitability of all Laird’s operations. These actions have delivered much improved results, and have built strong foundations for the future.”

The purchase is just the latest example of British tech firms selling to overseas buyers. Apple’s acquisition of music-recognition app Shazam, for a reported $400m (£300m), was agreed at the end of last year. In January, Hong Kong-based mobile powerhouse EcoRenew announced that it had snapped up Mazuma Mobile as it looked to ‘target’ the UK market. And just last month, Swiss group Temenos announced a £1.4 billion deal to buy trading software firm Fidessa.

And it is a trend that has been quickly growing for a number of years. In 2016, flight comparison site Skyscanner was sold to Chinese tourism group Ctrip for £1.4billion, while shortly after the EU referendum ARM accepted a £24.3 billion offer from Japanese group SoftBank. The ARM deal was the second-largest foreign takeover of a UK-listed company ever.

That deal sparked chancellor Phillip Hammond to announce £400 million of funding for startups to combat the ‘long-standing problem of our fastest growing technology firms being snapped up by bigger companies, rather than growing to scale’.

However, Hammond’s bid to thwart takeovers of UK tech firms appears to have come to no avail with Laird just the latest example of big bucks being poured over acquiring British tech firms. 

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