Hunt Valley's EA Engineering succeeds in going private

Founder and his family own 51% of firm's stock

January 09, 2003|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc. of Hunt Valley has completed a stock buyback to take the company private under the control of its founder and chief executive.

EA first announced in 2001 that it had teamed with the Louis Berger Group Inc. of East Orange, N.J., in a $9.3 million deal to transfer ownership to private investors.

The stock buyback was completed earlier this month and the deal has been sealed, investors from both companies said yesterday.

Loren D. Jensen, EA chairman and chief executive officer, and his family now own 51 percent of EA, and Louis Berger Group bought the remaining 49 percent. When the company was public, Jensen controlled 2.25 million, or 39 percent, of the company's 5.8 million shares.

"Together we bought back all of the public stock from the public stockholders that I didn't already own," Jensen said.

Louis Berger Group is to be a noncontrolling investor in the firm with no part in day-to-day operations. Louis Berger Group is to have two representatives on the five-member EA board of directors.

"When Dr. Jensen approached us, we thought it was a good opportunity to be an investor," said Derish M. Wolff, Louis Berger Group's chairman.

EA has 24 offices around the country and specializes in water and natural resources, strategic environmental management, hazardous waste management, environmental restoration and monitoring, and regulatory compliance. It had $54 million in revenues in the past fiscal year, which ended Dec. 31.

EA went public Oct. 31, 1986, raising $10 million in an initial public offering. It was a time when the industry was growing rapidly, and Jensen said he saw it as a way to raise capital to expand.

The company quadrupled in size, growing to as many as 700 employees. EA also began acquiring businesses that had nothing to do with environmental engineering.

But the company struggled to stay profitable and began cutting staff. In 2000, it posted a profit for the first time in five years only to suffer a loss the next year.

The stock sold at $1.60 before it stopped trading in September 2001. The company bought back the stock in January 2002 and completed the deal this month, said EA spokeswoman Kathryn Kuwabara.

The stock buyback has helped EA reduce costs, Jensen said. The company no longer has to pay expensive outside consultants to report financial matters to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency that monitors public companies.

EA retains its 400 employees.

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