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MSA to Sell Ballistic Helmet Business – Updated

MSA is selling their American ballistic helmet business unit. MSA purchased Gallet from the French when USSOCOM expressed interest in a predecessor to the helmet that became the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet and then by extension the Army’s Advanced Combat Helmet. This sale only affects their American helmet manufacture and NOT Gallet, their European producer of military and aviation helmets as well as protective helmets for firefighters and construction crews.

This comes as no surprise considering that they recently sold Paraclete, their body armor and load carriage business unit. Additionally, while MSA Gallet was once at the forefront of the the ballistic helmet business, there have been some major shifts in the works over the past two years. First, the Marine Corps and Army are both prepared to transition to a new helmet called the Enhanced Combat Helmet which relies on new production methodologies and new materials (polyethylene rather than the ACH’s aramid construction). Second, new modular designs such as those from Ops-Core are beginning to change the way we look at helmet design. It would take a great deal of investment for MSA to gain the upper hand in either one of these thrust areas. A sale at this point is most likely warranted, especially considering the statement below, from MSA that they want to move in a different direction.

Earlier today MSA announced it has signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell its North America ballistic helmet business. Terms of the deal and the potential purchaser’s name are not being disclosed but MSA expects to complete the transaction within the next 45 days.

The potential sale of this business is something the company has been considering for some time, said Joseph A. Bigler, President of MSA North America. “The decision to move in this direction came down to two factors: alignment with MSA’s long-term business strategy, and pursuing a course of action that provides our associates who work on our North American ballistic helmet line the best opportunity for future success,” Mr. Bigler said.

MSA entered the ballistic helmet market in 2003 following the company’s 2002 acquisition of French helmet manufacturer CFG Gallet, and subsequent contract awards from the U.S. Army to produce Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH), the current standard of issue for the U.S. Army. The company currently manufactures ballistic helmets at its Newport, Vermont manufacturing plant, which employs approximately 40 people.

Over the past five years MSA’s product strategy has increasingly focused on its “core” safety equipment product lines where the company has strong expertise, global R&D resources and vast market presence. MSA’s core product focus emphasizes industrial head protection, respiratory protective equipment, fall protection products, portable gas detection instruments and sensors, and fixed gas- and flame-detection systems.

“The competitive landscape for ballistic helmets has undergone tremendous change over the past several years, with multiple suppliers now intensely competing with MSA for this business,” Mr. Bigler said. “Quite simply, the manufacture of ballistic helmets for North American customers has become an increasingly challenging business for MSA and this drove our decision to explore alternative strategies for the business.”

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