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On 29 September 2022, the France-based high-tech industrial firm Groupe Gorgé announced that it had wrapped up its acquisition of iXblue, a company that serves markets in advanced navigation, photonics and maritime autonomy systems. Groupe Gorgé also reported that it was well along in the process of combining the iXblue operation with the acquiring company’s existing ECA Group subsidiary, which specializes in robotics, automation systems, simulation and industrial processes.
A Groupe Gorgé press release characterized the acquisition’s completion as “a major turning point” in the firm’s history, and said that the ECA–iXblue combination “creates a major player in the French DITB [defense and industrial technological base].” The combined companies will have a global workforce of 1,500 persons and annual turnover of some €250 million (US$245 million), according to a separate release jointly issued by iXblue and ECA.
Civil and defense businesses
iXblue is involved in a variety of civil and defense markets, with product lines ranging from optical components, specialty fibers and lasers to inertial navigation systems, marine autonomous systems, and measurement and subsea positioning systems. The company has also been active in quantum technology, quantum sensors and gravimeters, especially through its March 2021 acquisition of the quantum instrumentation firm Muquans.
The recently completed agreement for Groupe Gorgé to purchase iXblue was originally signed in March 2022. In a presentation to investors at that time, Groupe Gorgé said the combination of iXblue with Groupe Gorgé’s ECA subsidiary would create “a new high-tech champion” in a variety of cutting-edge areas important to the defense, maritime and aerospace sectors.
That combined firm, Groupe Gorgé said last week, “will rank among the world's leading players” in “maritime autonomous robotic systems, particularly for underwater mine-hunting, very high performance inertial navigation solutions [and] products and equipment for aerospace, photonics and quantum sectors.”
€410 million enterprise value
The acquisition cost, according to Groupe Gorgé, implies an enterprise value of €410 million for iXblue. Funds for the purchase included a €185 million syndicated loan, additional financing of €230 million from the Intermediate Capital Group investment fund, and a €24 million contribution from iXblue founding shareholder Hervé Arditty.
Groupe Gorgé believes that the ECA–iXblue combination can achieve sustained revenue growth and operating synergies worth “tens of millions of euros of current EBITDA” after the merger. As a result, the group is projecting that the combined companies will log annual revenues of more than €500 million and an EBITDA margin of “around 25%” by 2025–26.
On the announcement of the merger’s completion, iXblue President and CEO Fabien Napolitano said that iXblue and ECA engage in “complementary activities,” but “share a common DNA centered around innovation and entrepreneurship” that Napolitano hoped would enable new opportunities for synergy and R&D investment. ECA Group’s CEO, Dominique Giannoni, said in the same press release that the two companies’ teams “have already started working closely together.”