Richmond’s MDA to acquire U.S. satellite firm DigitalGlobe in $4.7b deal

Richmond-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. is best known for building the Canadarm | Photo: NASA

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX: MDA) — the B.C. aeronautics firm behind the Canadarm — is acquiring an American satellite imaging company in a deal totalling $4.7 billion

MDA will pay an equity value of $3.1 billion for Colorado-based DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI). But it’s also taking on $1.6 billion of DigitalGlobe’s debt, which puts the total value of the deal at $4.7 billion.

MDA will remain headquartered in Richmond, while the DigitalGlobe division will remain headquartered in Westminster, Colo.

Howard Lance, who has been based out of MDA’s California offices since he was hired as the Canadian firm’s CEO last April, will lead the newly combined company.

In a statement, Lance said the acquisition would help MDA expand its reach into the U.S. market for satellite Earth imagery.

Former MDA CEO Daniel Friedmann told Business In Vancouver last year that two-thirds of its business is in the U.S., making it ideal to have a CEO living and working in the American market.

“It doesn’t have any impact on the Canadian operation,” he said.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017. If and when it does, MDA would have 1,800 employees in Canada and 4,600 in the U.S.

MDA is paying US$35 a share for DigitalGlobe’s shares — an 18% premium based on DigitalGlobe’s closing share price as of February 18.

In January, MDA landed a contract with NASA that it estimated to be worth in excess of $100 million once finalized.

MDA’s U.S. business unit, SSL, will build a spacecraft platform to help the space agency explore one of the solar system’s largest asteroids.