Safran acquires Preligens, an SME specializing in artificial intelligence

Safran acquires Preligens, an SME specializing in artificial intelligence
Safran acquires Preligens, an SME specializing in artificial intelligence

By signing a check for around 220 million euros, Safran won the auction to acquire Preligens, a company specializing in artificial intelligence (AI), according to our information. This was the wish of Safran’s general director, Olivier Andriès, who had made it one of his external growth objectives. Preligens will strengthen Safran’s sovereignty activities (defense and space), which are housed within Safran Electronics & Defense (SED). Up for sale for several months, this SME, created in 2016 by Renaud Allioux and Arnaud Guérin, also interested the Swedish Hexagon AB and the Italian Telespazio, a subsidiary of Leonardo and Thales.

On the other hand, the latter has never been interested in this SME, whose main client is the French army. In October 2022, Preligens won a contract of up to 240 million euros over a period of seven years from the Ministry of Defense for mass data processing (Tornade market). It generates around twenty million euros in turnover per year with the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Time to go out…

The amount of the operation is far from the initial hopes of the shareholders of Preligens (the two founders, 360 Capital Partners, Tikehau, Definvest, Octave Klaba), who hoped to obtain around 350 million euros. However, in an interview given in April to Usine Nouvelle, the president of Preligens, Jean-Yves Courtois, affirmed that the company would be profitable in 2024 ” for the first time ” : 3 or 4 million euros for a turnover of 35 million this year (compared to 28 million in 2023). “This year and in the years to come, we expect growth of around 30% to 35%,” he said.

But then why did the company initiate this process? “It’s a decision of the shareholders”, he explained. And to explain that some of them wanted to exit while the founders wanted to recover part of the value generated. Especially since Preligens had to downsize by launching a social plan in 2023 (PSE or job protection plan), which reduces the workforce from 250 to 220 employees.

Safran, a springboard for the United States?

Preligens wanted to find a manufacturer who could offer it the ability to work in a classified environment in the United States where this SME wishes to develop an external growth strategy. “This would save us two years on our development schedule”, he explained to L’Usine Nouvelle. This is the case with Safran. The French group equips numerous American aircraft such as Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon and C-40 Clipper (CFM56-7B engines). Safran’s landing systems are used on the F/A-18 fighter, the C-17 transport aircraft, the KC-135 tanker aircraft and the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. It also provides cabling solutions for Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Boeing’s F-22 and KC-135R aerial refueling tanker, and Boeing and Bell’s V-22.

In addition, through the Optics 1 subsidiary, based in New Hampshire, Safran offers a wide range of devices and modules intended for surveillance and reconnaissance missions for dismounted soldiers, as well as airborne and operations involving land vehicles. Handheld electro-optical systems help the U.S. military meet mission requirements. The U.S. Army has selected Optics 1 to build the next generation of the Laser Target Locator Module II (LTLM II) system. This lightweight, portable system is equipped with day and night cameras, a laser range finder, a digital compass and a GPS receiver.

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