Oxford Instruments in talks to sell to Spectris for £1.79 bn

Oxford Instruments

Precision measurement company Spectris plc has confirmed it is in ongoing discussions with Oxford Instruments on a potential takeover of the business.

Oxford Instruments is a leading provider of high technology products and services to the world’s leading industrial companies and scientific research communities.

The offer values the company at a possible £1.79 billion.

Spectris believes the acquisition of Oxford Instruments would: “enable the combined group to strengthen its position in attractive end-markets, in particular semiconductors, advanced materials, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and academia.”

Oxford Instruments was the first company spun out of Oxford University. It was founded by British engineer and entrepreneur Sir Martin Wood in 1959 with help from his wife Audrey Wood (Lady Wood) to manufacture superconducting magnets for use in scientific research, starting in his garden shed in Northmoor Road, Oxford, England. It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1983.

Sir Martin Wood, who became a major philanthropist in Oxford, passed away last November, aged 94.

In 1985, Martin and Audrey co-founded The Oxford Trust, creating Oxfordshire’s first innovation centre for science and technology start-ups. Hand-in-hand with business incubation, the Trust has always supported young people and encouraged students to consider pursuing careers in STEM. The Oxford Trust owns the Oxford Centre for Innovationand opened the new the Wood Centre for Innovation in 2019. Together these centres help dozens of young tech companies get a head start. Through its Science Oxford programmes it reaches more than 20,000 students, 600 teachers and hundreds of families across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire annually.

Oxford Instruments one of UK exporters to South Korea tie up deal worth ‘tens of millions’

Andrew Heath, Chief Executive of Spectris, said: “Spectris has been significantly strengthened in recent years through progress against our Strategy for Profitable Growth, delivering a more focused, profitable business supported by a strong balance sheet. Our recent financial results demonstrated continued strong organic growth, expanding margins, and a healthy order book. Following a series of successful divestments under this strategy, we have been actively exploring opportunities to re-invest in acquisitions that have a strong strategic, financial and cultural alignment to our business and that will enhance and accelerate our growth opportunities.

“A combination of Spectris and Oxford Instruments would bring together two highly complementary businesses and create a leading global player in precision measurement. Oxford Instruments’ highly attractive, differentiated technologies are leaders in their fields and, combined with our own, will deliver a significantly enhanced value proposition for customers. The Spectris Board believes that a combination of our businesses will deliver a stronger future for both companies as a UK champion in the high technology instrumentation sector, and create immediate and long-term value for shareholders.”

Spectris, which is now headquartered in London, was founded by Sir Richard Fairey as the Fairey Aviation Company Ltd, with the objective of manufacturing seaplanes. It achieved renown during the 1930s and 1940s with a number of signature aircraft including the Swordfish, Firefly and Gannet. But following the rationalisation of the aviation industry in the 1950s, the company diversified and established its non-aviation engineering capabilities in areas such as marine, energy and filtration. In 1980 it was acquired by Pearson plc and the focus was on high technology businesses such as electronics and systems engineering. Seven years’ later it underwent a MBO from Pearson and in 1988 was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Since then it has gone on to make a number of significant acquisitions of companies in the UK and overseas, including Malvern Panalytical and Omega Engineering in Cheltenham.