Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG has taken over the UK company WFEL Ltd. based in Stockport, Cheshire. WFEL is regarded as the world-market leader for mobile bridging systems in both military and civil applications. The acquisition provides an exit for WFEL’s private equity investors Dunedin, which backed a management buyout of the business in 2006 for £48 million.
This is KMW’s first in the UK, it will provide WFEL with new opportunities to accelerate its international sales growth, while generating synergies for new and existing customers through a combined product portfolio of vehicle and bridging solutions offered by KMW.
WFEL bridges are used in places where other opportunities for crossing terrain, obstacles and bodies of water have been destroyed. The self-supporting structures can span up to 46 metres with a maximum load capacity of 125 metric tons. The global WFEL portfolio numbers about 40 governments and includes the USA, UK and Switzerland. In fiscal year 2011, the company’s 228 employees achieved sales of about EUR 45 m. WFEL, originally founded as the Fairey Aviation Company in 1915.
Prior to the takeover by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, WFEL was majority-owned by Dunedin LLP, a UK private equity company. Frank Haun, Chief Executive Officer of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, stated that the purchase is a logical step for WFEL, Dunedin and KMW: “Expanding our bridge business by including the mobile bridge systems from WFEL is a rational addition to our product range within a growing market. Mobile bridging systems are essential, both for military applications and in the civil sphere in case of natural catastrophes.”
WFEL began manufacturing bridging systems in the 1970s after winning a design contest with the Ministry of Defence to produce a new tactical military bridging asset. The resulting Medium Girder Bridge, of which over 500 systems have been sold globally, first entered service with the British Army in 1971. It later developed the Air Portable Ferry Bridge, which entered service in 2005, and the Dry Support Bridge, which was first deployed by the US in Iraq in 2003. In recent years WFEL has secured several major new contracts, growing annual sales almost 70% to £36.2 million (YE 31 December 2011). In 2009, it won a £17.7 million order from the U.S Department of Defense to supply a further tranche of its Dry Support Bridge system, followed last year by a £57 million order with the Swiss Armed Forces to supply tactical military bridging assets after an international procurement contest. In 2012, the company has already secured further orders from the USA and Indonesia.