Will MacDonald Dettwiler be taken over?

MacDonald Dettwiler recently was the agent for Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries in the sale of Heron drones to Canada’s armed forces. MDA’s space division is the developer and builder of the Canadarm. Most of MDA’s business is in information systems, and surveillance and intelligence (meaning presumably mostly satellite intelligence). The sale of military hardware to Canada’s armed forces seems to have been a departure from usual practise. Does it signal a trend? Does it signal some sort of special relationship with either the Canadian government or the Israeli defence establishment?

The Globe and Mail’s Steve Ladurantaye recently speculated that MacDonald Dettwiler was ripe for takeover, and that, despite the recent blocking by the Canadian government of the sale of it’s space division to Alliant Techsystems Inc, that several large multinationals might be interested in trying again.

Curiously, from initial observations, I’m not able to find much evidence that MDA was involved much in the more explicit elements of the arms trade until it acted for Israel Aerospace Industries in selling Canada Israeli drones. Obviously some of it’s space and surveillance work would have military applications, but MDA doesn’t appear to have done much work directly in the arms trade.

In early 2008 it was reported that MDA president and CEO Daniel E Friedman had been plotting a strategy to get MDA more involved in acquiring US military contracts, but that it had concluded that it would have to purchase US companies to do this, which it was not in a position to do. Friedman elsewhere pointed out that Canadian spending on space projects was not enough to keep a company the size of MDA going.


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