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Plessey Company, Ltd.

Plessey was a British electronics, defense and telecomms company, founded in 1917, growing and diversifying into electronics. Plessey began with the career of W.O Heyne, a German by birth, who lived in England from the age of four. He trained as an engineer, but in 1914 was interned in the Isle of Man, and released in 1916. moved to the Clutsam Action Company, manufacturers of piano-forte actions. Demand for their product was limited and the owner, Hurst Hodgson, decided to sell the company. However, realising the potential engineering skills of W.O. Heyne and to give these greater scope, he formed a new Company called Plessey on 11 December 1917.

By 1922 Marconi were looking for firms to manufacture radio sets under contract. In 1925 the original company was wound up and the Plessey Company as the modem company was formed. Plessey was also involved with early television experiments and Logie Baird worked for a time at Ilford conducting experiments from the roof of this factory. It expanded greatly during the Second World War. During WW2, it produced a vast array of components and equipment for the war effort, including shell cases, aircraft parts and radio equipment. The war effort of Plessey was considerable, though after the War The workforce fell from 11,500 to less than 6,000.

By 1953 the Plessey Company, which employed more than 9,000 people, was one of the largest manufacturers of electrical components in the country. In August 1961 a 55 million merger in the communications industry involving the Plessey Company, the Automatic Telephone and Electric Company and Ericsson Telephones was announced. This meant that about 40 percent of the telephone work done for the Post Office in the UK country was in the hands of the new group.

After Crouzet of France, Plessey Microsystems (U.K.) was the second corporation found to advertise commercial magnetic domain memories. Plessey, however, was the first producer to announce commercial magnetic bubble products. Previously, little information on the progress of bubble memories in Great Britain had appeared in the literature. Some bubble memory designs offered by Plessey should be completely developed by the middle or end of l976. At this time, it is said that an 8 kilobit and l6 kilobit magnetic bubble shift register would be available. In 1961 the size of PLESSEY doubled overnight when the company bought out A.T. & E and Ericsson Telephones Ltd, which brought in a large proportion of Post Office business, together with overseas business establishments and a diversity of new products.

In the bid by the General Electric Company pic ("GEC") in 1985 for the Plessey Company pic ("Plessey"), a U.S. District Court held that the bidder did not have to comply with the tender offer rules under the Exchange Act. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 20 January 1986 that he had decided, in accordance with the recommendation of the Director General of Fair Trading, to refer the proposed acquisition of Plessey Co. plc by GEC plc to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for investigation. He considered that the proposal raised issues of competition which justified investigation by the Commission.

By 1988 Plessey was eyeing a number of projects such as supplying avionics for the Boeing Brave 3000 remotely piloted vehicle, air defense ground environments, avionics, and dunking sonars for V-22 Osprey aircraft, but there are no specific contracts or plans for these to date. In addition, Plessey would get a share of Westinghouse's offset commitment based on a 1986 agreement between the two firms. This will include cooperation in the field of advanced air-based and land-based radars, air traffic control systems, advanced technical research and electronic warfare. Westinghouse's total offset commitment, including arrangements with Plessey, could amount to up to one quarter of the total U.K. offset package. Direct offset work may involve Plessey support of radar test equipment, radar program management, engineering support during test phases, and appointment of Plessey as the post-design support authority for the AN/APY-2 radar.

Plessey would also collaborate with Westinghouse in the future development of airborne early warning system modifications and improvements, including development of a new dual-band radar for the aircraft, which would be able to transmit both in the present S-band and at a lower frequency, probably in the UHF spectrum. Furthermore, Westinghouse has agreed that all airborne early warning radars to be sourced in Britain will be handled by Plessey, and that the value of orders placed with Plessey for other equipment will be maximized.

A joint organization was formed to study and identify other areas of cooperation and other British companies that can be involved. Personnel for this organization will be provided mostly by Plessey Avionics of Hampshire, England. In addition to providing offset opportunities to Plessey, Westinghouse will be involved in offset fulfillment in a number of other areas with various British firms through joint ventures, teaming, subcontracting, material procurement, technological development, and service agreements. Potential areas include composite materials, optics, and advanced electronics.

The UK's General Electric Company (GEC) and West Germany's Siemens collectively acquired Britain's Plessey, and divided most of the pieces among the two. GEC later took over Ferranti International's radar division. Toward the end of 1988 GEC teamed with Germany's Siemens AG to try to purchase Plessey for the equivalent of $3.1 billion. In August 1989 Siemens and GEC increased their offer and made a final bid of $3.3 billion for Plessey. Under the revised merger plan, outside of North America GEC would wholly own Plessey's naval systems and avionics businesses as well as its cryptography operations, while Siemens would take over Plessey's radar and defense systems.

Within North America, GEC would wholly own Sippican Inc. and Leigh Instruments Ltd. in Canada and would take 75 percent of Plessey Electronic Systems Corp. in the United States. The GPT telecommunications venture was split 40-60 between Siemens and GEC, with GEC having management control. However, Plessey continued to defend itself from the hostile takeover by entering several new markets, including computers, telecommunications, and automotive electronics. Finally, on September 8, 1989, Siemens and GEC completed their takeover of Plessey. The main production plant of Plessey Military Communications (PMC) produced tactical military radios and ship-to-shore communications systems.

The majority of Plessey's defense assets were amalgamated into BAE Systems in 1999 when BAe merged with the defence arm of GEC, Marconi Electronic Systems. The bulk of Plessey's telecommunications assets were acquired by Ericsson through its 2005 acquisition of Marconi Corporation plc, a successor company of GEC. The remainder of the communication assets went to Telent plc.

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Page last modified: 14-05-2013 19:27:07 ZULU