The General Electric Company plc (GEC) is a British company that was renamed Marconi plc on November 30, 1999 after its defence unit Marconi Electronic Systems was divested and sold to British Aerospace. It is not to be confused with the American conglomerate General Electric (GE).
In 1960 English Electric (EE), another major British electrical company, attempted a failed takeover of GEC. The rest of the decade saw the merger first of GEC with the Associated Electrical Industries company in 1967, and then in 1968, in the face of a bid for EE from the Plessey Company, the takeover of English Electric by the new GEC group. The English Electric acquisition brought the Marconi brand to GEC, the Marconi Company had been acquired by English Electric in 1946.
In 1988 GEC and Plessey, a British-based international radio, electronics and telecommunications company merged their telecoms businesses to form GEC Plessey-Telecommunications (GPT). The following year GEC and Siemens formed a joint company, GEC Siemens plc, to takeover the Plessy Company. As part of the deal GEC took control of Plessey's avionics and naval systems businesses.
In 1995 the company acquired Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (VSEL). VSEL was willing to participate in a merger with a larger company to reduce its exposure to cycles in warship production, particularly following the "Options for Change" defence review following the end of the Cold War. Following GEC's purchase VSEL became Marconi Marine (VSEL).
In June 1998 GEC completed the $1.4bn merger of Tracor, Inc with its North American subsidiary. Tracor was a major American defence contractor.
Marconi Electronic Systems sale
In December 1998 reports (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/the_company_file/227123.stm) began to emerge that GEC was seeking a partner for its defence division, Marconi Electronic Systems (MES), the value of which was greatly increased by the Tracor acquisition. GEC was already active in pursing consolidation in the defence business, it unsuccessfully proposed the privitisation and merger of Thomson-CSF to the French government in 1997. Prospective partners included Thomson-CSF (by 1998 on the road to privitisation) and various American defence contractors (e.g. Lockheed Martin and TRW).
Beginning in October 1998 reports linked British Aerospace with the German aerospace group DASA. GEC was even seen as a potential partner in a three-way merger with BAe and DASA. However soon the prospect of a merger of the British companies became the most likely development. In mid January 1999 GEC and BAe confirmed they were holding talks and on January 19 BAe announced that it was to acquire Marconi Electronic Systems for £7.7bn ($12.75bn).
Transition to Marconi plc
While the deal was yet to be completed GEC used the much of proceeds of the MES sale to acquire companies during 1999. This was part of a major realigment of the firm to become a radio, telecommunications, and internet equipment manufacturing company. GEC purchased Reltec for £1.3bn in March and Fore Systems for £2.8bn in April.
British Aerospace completed its purchase of MES on November 30, 1999 to form BAE Systems. GEC announced that it was to be renamed Marconi plc.
- British Thomson-Houston
- Metropolitan Vickers