No counter-bids for DRS: but expect more suitors, targets

August 8, 2008

airplane.jpgDRS Technologies on Friday said its $4 billion acquisition by Italian defense manufacturer Finmeccanica is on track and should close in the fourth quarter.

That statement from the American maker of defense electronics may finally lay to rest the speculation about the likelihood of another European company making a counter-bid for DRS.

Media reports had suggested that French defense electronics group Thales was considering a counter-bid for DRS. Despite DRS’s comments on Friday, don’t count Thales — or any of the European defense manufacturers — out yet.

Europe’s largest defense electronics company, Franco-German company EADS ( parent of Airbus), also wanted to counter-bid for DRS, but had said Finmeccanica’s offer was “too high.”

The Finmeccanica/DRS deal is expected to be just one of several acquisitions (or acquisition attempts, at the very least) by Europeans of U.S. defense companies, analysts have said.

U.S. defense spending — pegged at more than $500 billion for 2009 (excluding $100 billion for war-related costs) — is not expected to decrease in the next few years, regardless of who wins the presidential elections.

European companies looking to gain a presence in the U.S. defense market and get a piece of the defense budget — the world’s largest — are expected to target U.S. defense suppliers. DRS has already said it had received a higher offer from an unnamed foreign bidder and an expression of interest by a U.S. defense company.

And there is the parent company of French plane maker Dassault Aviation, which wants to acquire Alcatel-Lucent’s 20.8-percent stake in Thales.

Other possible targets include L-3 Communications, as well as Vought Aircraft Industries and Primus International — both of which were taken over by private equity firms who will eventually want an exit plan.

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