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Ocean Optics sells to strategic buyer

03 Jun 2004

Halma of the UK adds Ocean Optics to its portfolio of companies specializing in health, safety and sensing products.

Ocean Optics, the US spectrometer specialist, has been acquired by Halma, UK, for $25 million in cash. Halma will also make additional payments up to $25 million, depending on how Ocean Optics performs between April 2004 and March 2006.

In an interview with Opto & Laser Europe in May, Michael Morris, the co-founder of Ocean Optics, said that he was looking to sell the firm to a strategic buyer by the end of the year.

Halma is a manufacturing group of around 50 companies, each specializing in a particular “protection and detection” product. For example in the optics sector it owns Keeler, which makes ophthalmic optics and instruments such as ophthalmoscopes, and Volk, which produces specialist aspheric ophthalmic lenses. It also owns makers of products such as smoke and fire detectors, gas detection and water analysis systems.

“We have a lot of interest in the companies that make sensors and measuring devices of various sorts,” said a spokesperson for Halma. “There are various crossovers between the kinds of sectors Ocean Optics is involved in and the existing technologies that Halma is involved in.”

So will Ocean Optics’ customers and employees notice any differences now that the firm has been acquired? The answer is a definite no according to the spokesperson. “We like to foster the entrepreneurship that already exists in the company we acquire and we do that best by not interfering too much,” they told Optics.org. “We buy for the intellectual property in the company and its talented people. We are not a company that buys for assets in any way. It’s business as usual.”

Halma manages its businesses by appointing a single person to the board of the company. That person becomes the chairman and acts in a strategic role rather than being involved in the day-to-day management of the firm. Halma’s Andy Williams is now the chairman of Ocean Optics.

Ocean Optics will become part of Halma’s Optics and Specialist Technology sector. The company lists its five other specialist business sectors as: fire and gas detection; water leak detection and UV treatment; elevator electronics; bursting discs and sequential locking for process safety; and high power electrical resistors.

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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