Allied to sell Towson plant Profitable business likely to bring a 'very good price'

January 24, 1998|By Greg Schneider | Greg Schneider,SUN STAFF

AlliedSignal Inc. is "actively pursuing" the sale of its 800-employee Communications Systems division on Joppa Road in Towson, a spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

The aerospace and automotive company, which has its headquarters in New Jersey, wants to unload the plant so it can "better focus its resources on its core electronics and avionics businesses," said Maria Trintis-Stamas, a local spokeswoman for the company.

A sale also would "align its Towson-based operation with a new owner that has a strategic interest in our core competency here, which is advanced secure communications technologies," Trintis-Stamas said.

The process of finding a buyer is "in its early stages," she said. No other part of the corporation is currently for sale, she said, and AlliedSignal's Technical Services Corp. in Columbia is not affected.

Analyst Howard Rubel of Goldman Sachs said the decision to spin off the Towson division should benefit both the parent company and local workers.

"It's a nice little business, but it's probably worth more to someone else than to AlliedSignal" because the parent company is headed in a different direction, he said.

The corporation is more interested in avionics, or electronics systems that help control aircraft. Towson designs, produces, integrates and services air traffic control radar systems, encryption products and systems that identify combat aircraft as "friend" or "foe."

"It should command a very good price," Rubel said.

He estimated the division's annual revenue at $200 million. AlliedSignal has total yearly sales of about $14 billion.

The company bought the Towson facility in 1983 from Bendix, which had operated the plant since 1938. "While this site has gone through a lot of change in its history, the core business has remained here for 60 years. I think that's a key point to make," Trintis-Stamas said.

She likened any change in ownership to the process the former Westinghouse facility in Linthicum underwent when it was bought by Northrop Grumman in 1996. "Sometimes the sign changes, but the core business does not. It is AlliedSignal's intent for this business to remain here as a site."

Plant Vice President and General Manager Pat Hurley, who was traveling yesterday and was unavailable for comment, called employees together on Wednesday to announce the decision.

"He talked about protecting the interests of [everyone] as best as possible," Trintis-Stamas said. "The people here really took the news very well, actually."

Hurley also sent out notices to suppliers and customers, she said.

The plant has undergone a series of modest layoffs in the past two years, dropping employment to 800 after a long period of hovering near 1,200. About half of the work force is engaged in manufacturing, while the other half consists of engineers and administrators.

Analyst Rubel said he would attribute the job losses to the general retrenchment of the defense business. Military work accounts for more than half of the plant's sales.

The Towson plant's most high-profile recent product is a precision runway monitor system that enables planes to land simultaneously on parallel runways, allowing airports to handle twice as much traffic.

The division's workers are installing the systems at airports around the world.

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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