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Maxar Doubles Down on Satellite Imagery with Acquisition

By Rich Smith - Updated Jun 25, 2020 at 4:10PM

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The satellite builder and satellite imagery vendor owns Vricon in cooperation with Saab. Now it wants it all.

Maxar Technologies (MAXR 1.48%) -- which after the sale of its MDA subsidiary, derives twice as much of its revenue from satellite imaging as from satellite construction -- is doubling down on this much more profitable side of its business.  

Maxar already owns half of 3D data and analytics company Vricon: On Wednesday, it announced that it will spend $140 million to acquire the rest. To raise the cash needed to complete the purchase, Maxar  said it was selling $150 million worth of senior secured notes (i.e. debt) that will pay an annual interest rate of 7.5%.  

Spy satellite in orbit over Earth

Image source: Getty Images.

Maxar describes Vricon as "a global leader in satellite-derived 3D data for defense and intelligence markets, with software and products that enhance 3D mapping, Earth intelligence data, military simulation and training and precision-guided munitions."

Previously, Vricon operated as a joint venture between Maxar and Saab. Thus, the acquisition is perhaps better described as a buyout of its partner's interest in the JV.

What does Maxar gain from bringing Vricon fully in-house? For one thing, management notes that "Vricon's products and technology are strongly aligned with ... the U.S. National Defense Strategy," which suggests that the company is aiming to move strongly into the defense sphere (and suggests investors might want to start thinking about Maxar as less of a space stock and more of a defense stock).

On the civilian side of the business, Maxar thinks Vricon's tech will help "unlock" markets in "autonomous navigation and 5G telecommunications network planning." (So perhaps we should think of it as a defense stock with space and telecom stock side businesses?)

However you think of Maxar, this deal is a pricey one. It's paying an estimated 10 times EBITDA for Vricon, which is the equivalent to a more than 50% premium over Maxar's own 6.4 times EBITDA valuation.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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