Esterline, which has come under pressure in recent years from investors dissatisfied with its financial performance, will be acquired for $122.50 per share in cash.
Bellevue-based Esterline, an international producer of aerospace and defense equipment with about 1,000 employees here, will be sold to TransDigm Group in a $4 billion all-cash deal, the companies announced Wednesday.
The deal, expected to close in the second half of next year, is the latest in a wave of mergers among aerospace suppliers as they maneuver to get bigger and gain more leverage in negotiations with the prime manufacturers.
Speaking on the sidelines of an aerospace conference in Lynnwood Wednesday, Andy Buchan, Esterline vice president of corporate strategic marketing, said that the primes such as Boeing and Airbus, known as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in business jargon, are driving “consolidation throughout the industry.”
“There is continued price pressure from the large OEMs,” said Buchan. “This (merger) is a natural cycle of business, trying to stay competitive.”
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Boeing, one of Esterline’s largest customers, has been squeezing all of its suppliers for lower pricing for several years.
At the Aerospace Futures Alliance conference, Brian Murphy, president of equity investment company Meridian Capital, emphasized Boeing’s role in that industrywide transformation.
Murphy said the pressure on suppliers is creating a shift away from smaller independently owned companies toward larger suppliers with greater resources to meet Boeing’s demands.
Esterline, which has come under pressure in recent years from investors dissatisfied with its financial performance, will be acquired for $122.50 per share in cash, which represents a 38 percent premium to Esterline’s share price Tuesday.
The large but low-profile company has a global workforce of 13,000 in about 50 locations, a result of its many acquisitions. In this state its main plants are in Everett and Kent, with about 100 employees at its Bellevue headquarters.
Buchan said it’s too early to tell whether integrating the two companies will result in some job losses in overlapping areas.
“TransDigm’s stated intention is to retain the skills and workforce that have made Esterline successful,” Buchan said.
However, the Bellevue headquarters jobs must clearly be at risk when TransDigm consolidates operations.
A Credit Suisse aerospace analyst suggested TransDigm may want to dispose of Esterline’s non-aerospace units. All of those are outside Washington state.
A highly decentralized conglomerate, Esterline’s units operate independently. Its unit in Everett, Korry, makes flight deck electronics controls.
“If it’s in a cockpit and a pilot touches it, a button, a switch or a panel, it’s likely Korry makes it,” said Buchan.
Esterline’s Kent unit, Hytek, is a services business providing metal finishing, painting, plating and anodyzing.
TransDigm, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is an equally decentralized conglomerate, with 9,200 employees. It has two units in Washington state, AvtechTyee in Everett and Pexco Aerospace in Yakima. According to state filings, Avtech employed 230 people and Pexco 222 at the end of last year.
Avtech makes aerospace electronic systems, including flight deck audio communications equipment, lighting and controls. It also designs and finishes parts called tie-rods that are used on Boeing’s 787 to secure stow bins and other passenger cabin fixtures.
Esterline’s Korry unit doesn’t make audio equipment, but otherwise there may be some overlap with Avtech’s controls business.
Pexco manufactures cabin interior structures from plastic, including overhead stow bins, panels and trim, seat track covers, lenses for lighting and housing for wires and cables.
For fiscal 2018, Esterline projects revenue of $2 billion, similar to last year.
Since 2014 Esterline has shed several units and has come under pressure to sell from activist investors critical of its lackluster performance.
TransDigm reported 9-month sales of $2.8 billion, up 7 percent, with profit of $731 million. It has grown rapidly through acquisitions, including the recent purchase of Esterline’s Kirkhill unit.
Correction: This story originally stated incorrectly that TransDigm had only one unit in Washington state. It was corrected on Oct. 20, to add the information about TransDigm unit Pexco.