Canadarm company back in Canadian hands with $1 billion deal

Posted Dec 30, 2019 by Karen Graham
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.
RadarSat. Keeping an eye on who? CSA
RADARSAT2 satellite supplies information about ground conditions to several different monitoring systems.
Photo: Canadian Space Agency
A consortium of investors, led by Northern Private Capital, with financial backing from billionaires John Risley and Jim Balsillie, are buying all the Canadian and U.K. operations of MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates (MDA), according to The Province.
Other investors include Andrew Lapham, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, and Senvest Capital, an investment firm based in Montreal, reports CBC Canada.
The deal is valued at $1 billion in equity and debt and will return MDA to Canadian control and MDA headquarters will return to Canada where the company employs 1,900 people. MDA's headquarters used to be the largest employer in Vancouver, British Columbia - until the creation of Maxar Technologies.
This move allowed MDA, which was founded in 1969, to acquire Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, a producer of high-resolution Earth-imagery products through a merger in 2017.
Canadarm (right) during Space Shuttle mission STS-72.
Canadarm (right) during Space Shuttle mission STS-72.
MDA's attempt to sell to ATK of Minnesota in 2008
By 2008, the famed Canadarm and the hyper-techno savvy RADARSAT 1 and 2 satellites developed by MDA had become important to the national interest, so much so that one employee with MDA quit his job after learning the company was looking to sell to the US communications and weaponry company, ATK of Minnesota, according to Digital Journal.
It didn't take long for the Canadian government to get involved, and it did raise some eyebrows on Parliament Hill. But in an unprecedented move, Ottawa, after a week of public hearings, sided with taxpayers and blocked the sale. This was the first time the Canadian government had ever used its power under the Investment Canada Act.
“Over its 50-year history, MDA has grown from a B.C.-based start-up into a world-class space technology company and an anchor of Canada’s space program,” John Risley said in a press release. “We are thrilled to partner with Mike Greenley and the rest of the MDA team and are excited about the significant growth potential we see for the company. As a Canadian, I am so proud this iconic Canadian company will once again be owned and controlled in Canada.”
Northern Private Capital says the acquisition of MDA is expected to close in 2020 following regulatory approvals, according to Victoria News.