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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

We are heading for a big splash

Wed 11 Jul 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

We are heading for a big splash

Editor Martyn Wingrove predicts who will be next in this round of MEC sector consolidation

We are on a crest of a big wave of consolidation in the marine electronics, communications and intelligent shipping sector that is going to make a major splash at the end.

I foresee more mergers and acquisitions this year, private equity interest and one mega-sized deal.

In the last two weeks, we have reported that Norwegian electronics company Navico, best known for its Simrad brand, acquired C-Map and its electronic navigational chart services.  

We also reported last Friday that Kongsberg had agreed to purchase the commercial marine arm of Rolls-Royce, which includes intelligent ship tech.

At an estimated US$660M, this acquisition dwarfs Wärtsilä’s US$250M purchase of Transas in May.

Wärtsilä has been at the forefront of the wave of consolidation, having made a string of acquisitions to build up its smart shipping business. These have included SAM Electronics, Eniram and Guidance Marine and all have taken place in the last few years.

Separately, Apax Partners rebought satellite communications provider Marlink in 2016, and followed this with an acquisition of Livewire, Radio Holland’s VSAT business and OmniAccess in 2017.

And it is in satcoms that I expect the biggest deal of them all to come.

In the last few years, we have witnessed consolidation with smaller VSAT service providers being snapped up by the likes of SpeedCast and Panasonic. But the mega-sized deal is likely to be a satellite operator.

Last week, Inmarsat rejected a second bid from US-based EchoStar, worth around £3.2Bn (US$4.3Bn).

And EchoStar are not the only group interested in Inmarsat. Others have been sniffing around, with Eutelsat announcing its interest in late June, but with no offer on the table as yet. It is clear Inmarsat has captured interest from those looking for acquisitions in the satellite operator market, and my prediction is the company will no longer be independent by the end of this year, making this the big splash that our consolidation wave is heading to.

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