Belfast Telegraph

Norwegian deal sees Survitec double marine equipment

By Margaret Canning

Marine and defence equipment firm Survitec - which has a large operation in Dunmurry - has acquired part of a Norwegian company in a move doubling its marine operations.

The deal to acquire the safety business of Wilhelmsen was supported with around £20m in funding from Barclays in Northern Ireland.

It's understood the Barclays' finance was part of a wider range of funding from a number of sources.

And Survitec in Northern Ireland will now be banking with Barclays.

Survitec and Wilhelmsen first announced a merger of their safety businesses last year.

The deal was given the go-ahead by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK and has now been concluded.

And Barclays said the deal boded well for "Northern Ireland's ongoing economic potential in an international market".

Survitec started out in Dunmurry in 1952 as RFD Ltd and has grown into a major supplier of marine equipment, with turnover of around £450m and operations around the world.

But its finance headquarters remains in Dunmurry, where it employs around 300 people, while manufacturing is carried out both in Dunmurry and in England. It also has around 80 service centres in 30 countries around the world.

Its clients include global air forces and navies, major airlines and ferry companies.

A spokesman for Barclays said it was providing a "£20m working capital uplift" to buy Wilhelmsens's safety business, which includes life raft rental and fire equipment and operates all around the world.

Chris Bates, chief financial officer of Survitec Group, said: "The Wilhelmsen acquisition is a major step for the Survitec Group and Barclays was selected to support with debt facilities and to become the house bank following a competitive process.

"The local relationship team, with expertise in managing complex banking relationships, demonstrated a clear understanding of the business requirements and delivered the on-boarding process quickly and efficiently." Graeme MacLaughlin, relationship director at Barclays Northern Ireland, said it was "delighted" to partner with Survitec Group.

"Survitec is an international business with significant manufacturing facilities in Northern Ireland, and we are delighted to be supporting its continued growth."

Dunmurry is the group's main centre for marine and aviation survival equipment, and it specialises in the marine and off-shore, and oil and gas sectors.

In 2015, Survitec was sold to the Canadian private equity firm Onex for $680m.

Neasa Quigley, joint head of corporate law at Belfast law firm Carson McDowell, said she believed 2017 would continue to see a steady level of M&A activity, though patterns were changing.

"There has been a fall in the value of mega deals, as investors instead turn their eyes to smaller opportunities in a bid to manage risk levels.

"It is for precisely this reason that companies in Northern Ireland hold so much appeal at the moment. Not only are they, for the most part, trading with confidence, they also meet the target value size, which makes them attractive for mergers and acquisition.

"This year holds the potential to be as strong as 2016 and we are confident that deal activity in Northern Ireland will continue to perform well in the face of the uncertain landscape."

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on international mergers and acquisitions in the UK in the first few months of the year said the value of such deals dropped to its lowest level in nearly three years at the start of 2017.

There were 127 M&A agreements at the start of the year - including 40 deals worth a total of £5.1bn in which overseas firms snapped up UK firms. That was the lowest value since the end of 2014.

Belfast Telegraph