Belfast Telegraph

Andor has success firmly in sight

Digital camera maker in vow to continue 'at frontier of science'

By Margaret Canning

Staff at digital camera maker Andor in west Belfast are continuing their work "at the frontiers of science" following its acquisition this year by Oxford Instruments, the English plc has said.

The bosses of technology tools maker Oxford Instruments said its £276m purchase was "integrating well and performing ahead of plan" as they announced preliminary results for the year ending March 2014.

The company, which like Andor started out as a university spin-out, revealed adjusted pre-tax profit of £47.1m over the year, from £47m a year earlier.

Andor, which was one of just three Northern Ireland plcs before its February takeover, is one of our biggest corporate and scientific success stories, and employs 342 people, including 250 at its base in Springvale Business Park.

It makes highly-specialised cameras for academic use and medical science – and its expertise in optical microscopes made it a valuable addition to Oxford.

In a conference call yesterday, Oxford Instruments chief executive Jonathan Flint and Belfast-born Kevin Boyd, its financial director, said it was a case of business as usual in Belfast. Mr Boyd said: "We are committed to keeping the Belfast office open and expanding its research and development.

"We have a new managing director in place, who is the former head of local engineering Gary Wilmot.

"Former chief executive Conor Walsh left as is usual, after very strong leadership of the organisation over the years."

And there had been no redundancies though the board of the former Andor plc had left, he said.

Co-founder Donal Denvir remains the technical director.

Mr Boyd and Mr Flint said that it could look at staffing in international locations like Osaka in Japan, where both have offices and it could "make sense to consolidate".

Jonathan Flint said Andor had been "the largest acquisition we have ever done" but no further deals were being lined up. We always look at new technologies but we will be continuing to integrate Andor for the time being."

Mr Boyd said there were cultural similarities between the companies which had made the acquisition more straightforward.

"Oxford Instruments itself spun out of Oxford University 50 years ago, while similarly Andor spun out of the physics department of Queen's. We have found we work together very, very well."

He added: "Andor retains all its autonomy as a standalone unit run by Gary Wilmot."

New camera products at Andor would be used in applications such as astronomy, the human genome project and genetic mapping, Mr Flint said.

"It will be doing extremely well in emerging new areas at the frontiers of science."

Mr Boyd said Oxford Instruments had faced "headwinds and tailwinds" in the last year.

He added: "With 95% of its business from export, it had suffered from the effect of the strong sterling."

It pays to plan ahead in a merger

By John McGuckian

While no two acquisitions/mergers are the same, useful actions can be taken in advance of or post-transaction.

Employment issues are common with fears of redundancies where two companies that have now become one had their own management team and sales, accounting and even HR departments.

An often overlooked post-acquisition/merger issue is combining the cultures of two different organisations. An atmosphere of co-operation, camaraderie and optimism must be developed to overcome the fear and confusion that was in all likelihood the norm during the acquisition process. The buyer should carefully manage issues of control. Centralised control depriving the target company's management team of autonomy might demotivate and result in a poorly performing organisation. Appropriate incentives for the acquired company's management team should be designed.

There may be various forms of due diligence reports prepared during the acquisition process (legal, tax, financial). It is important to identify the areas highlighted for post-acquisition action – for example, contracts that were identified as weak should be strengthened where possible.

Acting for Astec Industries in its purchase of Telestack (Telestack in Omagh was sold to Astec for £21.6m), we saw that in advance of the purchase a considerable amount of effort was placed into ensuring buyer and seller management teams would work together to grow the business on the ground and into protecting the interests of employees and stakeholders.

John McGuckian is a director of the corporate department at law firm Tughans

Belfast Telegraph