Curtiss-Wright to buy Lau Defense Systems and Vista Controls

Dec. 1, 2001
Officials at Curtiss-Wright Corp. took steps to expand their ground-defense business last month with their $41 million acquisition of Lau Defense Systems.

By John McHale

LYNDHURST, N.J. — Officials at Curtiss-Wright Corp. took steps to expand their ground-defense business last month with their $41 million acquisition of Lau Defense Systems in Littleton, Mass., and Vista Controls in Santa Clarita, Calif.

The deal, which includes some monetary incentives, is expected to close by the end of this year. Both companies will fall under the Curtis-Wright Flight Systems division in Gastonia, N.C. Lau Defense Systems and its Vista Controls operation build rugged, high-reliability electronic control systems primarily for military applications.

The acquisitions of Lau Defense and Vista Controls will "expand our position in the defense electronics market" and "create cross-marketing opportunities to an expanded customer base," says Martin Benante, chairman and chief executive officer of Curtiss-Wright.

About two-third of the Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems business revolves around commercial aviation, with Boeing as a major customer, says George Yohrling, president of Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems and executive vice president of Curtiss-Wright Corp. The acquisition places 60 percent of Flight Systems business in the military, he adds.

The financial clout of Curtiss-Wright will help Lau and Vista compete for large military contracts, explains Phil Hamilton, vice president of marketing at Lau Defense Systems. At the same time, Lau Defense can expand their European business through Curtiss-Wright subsidiary SIG-Antriebstechnik AG, a unit of SIG Swiss Industrial Company Holding Ltd., Hamilton says.

The acquisition also expands Vista's opportunities in avionics, says marketing director Doug Patterson. Vista's aircraft business has concentrated on unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk. Curtiss-Wright is involved in the U.S. Air Force F-16 and U.S. Navy F/A-18 jet fighters, Patterson says.

Curtiss-Wright supplies actuators for aircraft mechanical subsystems, while Lau designs actuator controllers. Now Curtiss-Wright becomes a one-stop shop in a sense, Patterson points out.

Lau and Vista also build electronics for fire control, aiming, stabilization, munitions loading, and environmental control in military combat vehicles such as the U.S. Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, and Brigade Combat Team Interim Armored Vehicle.

In 2000 Vista reported revenues at about $10 million, Lau Defense revenues were $41 million, and Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems revenues were $160 million, Hamilton says.

In the deal, Curtiss-Wright also acquired the Lau Defense System perimeter intrusion-detection security system product line, and agreed to license the facial-recognition products from Lau Defense parent Lau Technologies in Littleton, Mass.

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