Calian’s shopping spree continues with acquisition of Ottawa cybersecurity firm EMSEC Solutions

Kevin Ford
Kevin Ford

After going nearly six months between acquisitions, Calian Group is quickly making up for lost time.

Just a week after announcing it had closed a deal to buy a Norway-based military training enterprise, the Kanata firm said late Tuesday it has finalized the acquisition of local cybersecurity company EMSEC Solutions. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2011, EMSEC thwarts hackers who are looking to gain access to sensitive data by intercepting signals emitted from computers and other electronic devices. The five-person company, which has annual revenues of about $5 million, works with customers in defence, security, public safety and other sectors to help them protect their IP and other secure information.

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“They are the experts people call for this kind of stuff,” said Calian CEO Kevin Ford. “What we like about it is there’s not hundreds of companies doing this. It’s very specialized. I think this is just going to strengthen our differentiation in our cyber business now that we can actually bring this capability to the table.”  

As teleworking has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of bad actors stealing signals from laptops, smartphones and other devices has escalated, Ford said, adding EMSEC works with major Canadian “brands you would recognize” to help stop corporate espionage in its tracks.

Busy acquisition pipeline

“I think as we get more and more connected (in) the mobile world we’re living in now, you can imagine that it’s only going to get more and more opportunistic for people to try and tap into computers,” he explained.

The deal marks Calian’s first acquisition of a cybersecurity company since it bought Ottawa-based IT security firm Secure Technologies two years ago. Ford said having four distinct business lines is an asset for Calian when it comes to executing its aggressive M&A strategy, which has seen the company acquire 12 firms in the past nine years.

“The beauty of the model is we can literally cycle through each of our segments and make sure that (the acquisitions) are integrated properly,” he said.

Ford said Calian started to talk with EMSEC’s owners about a potential deal before COVID-19 began battering the economy. The CEO said closing deals in back-to-back weeks was part of Calian’s push to “clean up” its acquisition pipeline as it strives to hit its double-digit revenue growth target for fiscal 2020. 

Now at more than 3,400 employees, Calian is on pace for revenues in the $400-million range and has recorded 74 consecutive profitable quarters.

“Time is not a luxury we can afford right now with regard to keeping our growth momentum,” Ford said. “(We’re) focused on closing a few of these (transactions) that have been in discussions for a while.”  

While the pandemic has wreaked havoc with many companies’ growth plans, OBJ’s 2017 CEO of the Year said it has been “business as usual” for Calian as it continues to press forward with its aggressive acquisition strategy.  

“We’re hoping we continue apace on M&A,” Ford said. “I think that’s what you’re seeing with Calian ​– we just keep adding more capability to our company. Some people may say just stop and wait to see how this plays out. But we’re really more in that mindset of ‘Let’s stick to our plan.’ Let’s not let COVID derail our growth objectives … so we come out of this stronger than ever.”

Calian’s shares were up seven cents to $59.45 in late-afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. 

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