Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Whale's HQ to remain in Bangor after US takeover

Arlene Foster with Whale managing director Patrick Hurst MBE
Arlene Foster with Whale managing director Patrick Hurst MBE

Co Down company Whale is set to maintain its Bangor base following its acquisition, its new owners have said.

The business, which makes pumping systems, water heaters and other equipment for boats and caravans and made sales of around £18m last year, has been acquired by US firm Brunswick Corporation.

The New York Stock Exchanged-listed company, based in Illinois, styles itself as "a market leader in the marine, fitness, and bowling and billiards industries".

In a statement released yesterday, it did not say how much it paid for Whale, also known as Munster Simms Engineering.

But Whale's long-term focus on research and development will have made it an attractive target for acquisition – though Whale was not available for comment yesterday.

Belfast law firm Tughans acted for Whale in the deal – the third acquisition in the last five days of a major Northern Ireland business after Lambert Smith Hampton snapped up commercial property agency BTWShiells and Boston-based Liberty Insurance took over Hughes Insurance.

The deals have made the month of June the busiest period for acquisitions in Northern Ireland in 2014 so far and are expected to help make the year the most frantic for merger and acquisition activity for at least a decade.

Whale, led by managing director Patrick Hurst, recently announced a £3m investment in research and development. It employs around 149 people.

It has three manufacturing sites, two in Bangor and one in California, and holds 17 patents worldwide.

Mr Hurst is a much-admired figure in business, and was last year's Belfast Telegraph Businessperson of the Year.

In a statement on the US company's website, Dustan E McCoy, chairman and CEO of Brunswick, said: "Parts and accessories (P&A) has become an increasingly important part of our marine business at Brunswick

"We have done a good job of organically growing our marine P&A business, but we also see an opportunity to expand the depth, breadth and global presence of this business through strategic acquisitions.

"Further, this transaction is consistent with our strategy to utilise our free cash flow to grow our core businesses.

"By incorporating such acquisitions into our current P&A growth plan, we believe we can enhance the growth of the P&A business, broaden the product portfolio, enable our entry into attractive adjacent markets, and expand our global presence in the P&A space."

Brunswick said that Whale would continue to be based in Bangor, and would be part of Attwood, a brand in Brunswick's marine parts and accessories operations.

In 2013, the corporate market witnessed 78 transactions worth £1.6bn throughout 2013, according to date company Experian's deal review and adviser league tables for 2013.

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