Private equity firm will acquire GTEC of McLean

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, March 7, 2011

McLean-based Global Defense Technology & Systems, a growing contractor primarily focused on intelligence systems and services, announced last week it will be acquired by an affiliate of private-equity firm Ares Management.

The company is the latest to be picked up by private equity, which has played an increasingly large role in the defense industry as it adjusts to anticipated reduced budgets and new Pentagon guidelines on conflicts of interest.

The buy "highlights the capital market renaissance that's occurred over the last 12 months," said Bob Kipps, managing director of the McLean-based investment firm KippsDeSanto.

The definitive agreement reached by GTEC, as the company is known, and Ares, based the deal on a share price of $24.25, a nearly 51 percent increase over the company's $16.08 close the day before the agreement was announced. The total deal value is approximately $315 million, including the assumption of debt and prior to expenses, GTEC said.

John Hillen, GTEC's president and chief executive and the former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs from 2005 to 2007, said the purchase won't change the company's management or strategy.

"We think the market lacks a great, mid-sized, technology-differentiated, mission-oriented prime contractor" working for the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, Hillen said. Ares is "backing that vision and team."

GTEC reported last month that its revenue surged 9 percent in 2010, to $232.7 million, from the previous year. In 2010, the company made two acquisitions, both in the burgeoning cybersecurity field.

It paid nearly $27 million for the Fort Meade-based Zytel and almost $53 million for Signature Government Solutions in Herndon.

Those purchases "kind of tapped them out, so they really needed some dry powder to continue on the acquisition campaign . . . to maintain their growth and maintain their competitiveness," Kipp said.

Hillen said Ares' backing could potentially accelerate GTEC's plans to buy more companies as it seeks to grow organically and through acquisitions.

The company is focusing on high-end technology companies that work in areas like cybersecurity and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The deal, which will make GTEC wholly owned by Ares affiliate Sentinel Acquisition Holdings, is expected to close by the end of June. Damian Perl, founder and chief executive of GTEC's largest shareholder, supports the offer, according to GTEC's announcement.

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