Canadian Manufacturing

Canada’s MacDonald Dettwiler closes DigitalGlobe deal, confirms move to U.S.

The Canadian firm that built the Canadarm plans to change its name and reorganize its operating structure to place its headquarters in the U.S.


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The Canadian company, which may not stay Canadian for long, is best known for building the Canadarm as well as other space robotics and satellite communications equipment. PHOTO: NASA

SAN FRANCISCO—MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. has closed its major acquisition of U.S. satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe Inc.

MDA said the $4.7 billion merger creates an integrated space technology company serving both commercial and government customers, but the deal will also lead to major changes at the company known for building the Canadarm.

In fact, the Canadian firm may not stay Canadian for long.

In the short term, the company plans to adopt a new name. It said Oct. 5 it will become Maxar Technologies Ltd., a change expected to kick in on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges next week.

MDA has also confirmed earlier plans to reorganize the operating structure of the company—a process that will headquarter the company in the U.S. as opposed to Canada.

A stipulation of the DigitalGlobe acquisition, MacDonald Dettwiler is required to incorporate DigitalGlobe’s ultimate parent company in the U.S. by 2019. While MDA formed San Francisco-based SSL MDA Holdings Inc. in 2016, the overall company has remained Canadian-headquartered up until now.

With the closing of the deal, the company is committed to the 2019 timeline, but it revealed no specifics about how it will accomplish the move. The company’s president and CEO Howard Lance, previously said there are a number of ways to meet the requirement and that it would keep the Canadian government and its Canadian employees top-of-mind throughout the process.

The shift in MDA’s headquarters is expected to give the company better access to U.S. government and defence contracts, but Canadian critics of the move have categorized it as a “complete betrayal.”


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