Technology  February 20, 2024

No layoffs expected after BAE’s Ball Aerospace acquisition

BROOMFIELD — On the heels of the recent competition of BAE Systems PLC’s roughly $5.5 billion acquisition of Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., company leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Colorado on Tuesday and said that there are no plans for significant staffing changes at local operations. 

“We’re staying put — this has always been home,” BAE Systems Inc. Space & Mission Systems president Dave Kaufman said during a media event at the newly formed division’s Broomfield headquarters. Kaufman was formerly the president of Ball Aerospace, a business unit of aluminum-can giant Ball Corp. (NYSE: BALL) prior to its sale to an American subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems. 

BAE Systems Inc. Space & Mission Systems, created as a result of the Ball Aerospace deal, has “nearly 5,000 people in Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster and Colorado Springs” who came over as part of the Ball Aerospace absorption, he said. “We’ve invested billions into the facilities, the capabilities and the people in Colorado. The acquisition was acquiring that investment. We’re absolutely staying in Colorado.”

The sale to BAE “isn’t going to really affect our staffing plans. We had been operating as a separate division of Ball Corp. here in Colorado, and we’re now going to be operating as that same separate division as part of another larger corporation.”

The BAE acquisition is a “chance for us to increase that presence in Colorado and beyond,” Kaufman said. “… Our focus is on growth rather than consolidation.”

When asked by BizWest whether the BAE’s Space & Mission Systems division headcount in February 2025 will be larger or smaller than roughly 5,000 Colorado workers Ball Aerospace had at the time of the acquisition, Kaufman said, “I’d say more.” 

It’s too soon, however, to know what the specific near-future staffing needs will be, he said. “It really depends on how the business develops. As a growing prime contractor, I really do think there’s going to be a need for more people. … I don’t expect (the employee headcount) to be 7,000 (by next year), but I do expect it to be more than 5,000.”

BAE has absorbed not only Ball Aerospace’s workforce, but its real estate as well, Kaufman said. “All the buildings, all the leases, all the land that Ball Aerospace operated on all goes with” BAE in the deal. 

BAE Systems Inc. Space & Mission Systems president Dave Kaufman said that the company, a subsidiary of a British defense contracting giant that recently acquired Ball Corp.’s aerospace business, is committed to maintaining and growing its Colorado presence. Lucas High/BizWest

About three years ago, Ball Aerospace began the process of planning and seeking regulatory approval for a major expansion of its Boulder satellite research and development campus. Construction on the project has not yet begun, Kaufman said, but the BAE deal is not expected to derail the eventual expansion. “When the business demands it, then we’ll move forward with the (expansion) plans.”

Because BAE — which, as one of the United Kingdom’s largest defense contractors, builds and sells everything from missile launchers to submarines to flying drones — has a different customer base than Ball Aerospace, “over time, we’re going to expand our offerings,” Kaufman said.

While Ball Aerospace also regularly contracted with military organizations, many of the company’s recent high-profile satellite projects served scientific functions, such as monitoring weather conditions for NASA. Scientific missions, Kaufman said, are expected to continue, but additional defense applications are expected to be added to the satellite product portfolio. 

“Rather than shifting customers, we’re really expanding customers,” he said. “The science community has been an important customer to us for a long time and it will continue to be an important customer for us.”

As a result of the BAE acquisition, “we have the ability to bid on larger” contracts from clients — government defense agencies, in particular — around the world,” Kaufman said. While owned by Ball Corp., the aerospace division had not “done much international business,” he said. With the “global reach” provided by BAE, “that’s a new opportunity for us.”

By offloading the aerospace division, Ball can focus on its core aluminum business, company leaders have said since the deal was announced last summer. 

Ball Corp. CEO Daniel Fisher told investors in August 2023 that “Ball, going forward, will be a pure-play aluminum packing leader,” adding that “aerospace is not a hugely cash-generative business.”

A suitor for the aerospace business “was something that Ball was looking for” in recent years, Kaufman said. “I think this is a great fit. Ball Corp. was investigating options and BAE Systems saw a company that was in line with their strategy.”

On the heels of the recent competition of BAE Systems PLC’s roughly $5.5 billion acquisition of Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., company leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Colorado on Tuesday and said that there are no plans for significant staffing changes at local operations. 

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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