Canadian group to repatriate Canadarm company in $1B deal with Maxar

Deal to acquire MDA's Canadian and U.K. operations includes Kanata-based robotic vision company Neptec


A Toronto-based investment firm has signed a $1-billion deal to buy the Canadian space technology company behind Radarsat Earth-observation satellites and the Canadarm robotic mechanisms on the International Space Station.

A consortium led by Northern Private Capital with financial backing from former BlackBerry co-chief executive Jim Balsillie will acquire all Canadian and U.K. operations of the former MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates.

The group says MDA’s corporate headquarters will return to Canada, where it employs more than 1,900 people. The company has significant operations in the National Capital Region, with radar satellite fields in Ottawa and Gatineau as well as a government relations office on Slater Street. Its local presence includes the robotics firm Neptec, which MDA acquired in a $42-million deal last year.

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MDA group president Mike Greenley told OBJ at the time of the acquisition that Neptec, which develops vision technology currently in use on the International Space Station, is key to the space giant’s strategy to tackle the emerging market demand for in-orbit satellite servicing.

MDA’s headquarters and largest operations had been in the Vancouver area until Maxar Technologies was created to allow MDA’s acquisition of Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, a producer of high-resolution Earth-imagery products.

The deal to repatriate MDA’s Canadian operations will be financed by a number of sources including NPC, which is led by John Risley and Andrew Lapham, as well as Balsillie and Senvest Capital, Scotiabank and Bank of Montreal.

The group sees significant growth potential for MDA under its new ownership.

“As a Canadian, I am so proud this iconic Canadian company will once again be owned and controlled in Canada,” Risley said in a statement.

Northern Private Capital says the acquisition of MDA is expected to close in 2020 following regulatory approvals.

– With files from OBJ staff

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