The South African defence industry’s best known secret – the takeover of troubled ATE by the Paramount Group – looks set to become reality before mid-year.
In June last year Midrand-based ATE issued a statement saying it was back in business after the North Gauteng High Court declared a resolution to commence business rescue proceedings had “lapsed and become a nullity”.
At that time ATE said its board of directors was “actively in focused negotiations with a number of highly credible international investors from the aviation industry of significant financial substance, who are acutely interested in making a significant investment in ATE on an urgent basis. Such investment will enable ATE to be restored to full health and make an offer to creditors, suppliers and other stakeholders of ATE which will surpass the offer in the former so called business rescue plan to a significant and material degree”.
This has now advanced to the stage where the ATE website carries a 60 page “Business Rescue Plan” compiled by senior business rescue practitioner Gavin Gainsford of KPMG.
The plan includes only a proposal from the Paramount Group. With no other white knights on the horizon it seems just about a done deal for Ivor Ichikowitz’ group to cement its position as the largest privately owned defence industry company in South Africa.
Details of exactly how and what the merger/take-over will mean in terms of products, support, research and technology will only be announced once the business rescue plan has been signed off by both parties.
For Paramount it will be the addition of a specialist aeronautical engineering capability to its already impressive line-up of aerospace, land and maritime-based defence and security products. The ATE unmanned aircraft systems business unit will come into the Paramount stable at a time when these aerial platforms are making their presence felt more and more in military and other security applications such as anti-poaching and maritime patrolling.
For the SA Air Force the impending coalition between ATE and Paramount means it will still have a local supplier of the Hawk navigation and weapon system. ATE developed the system which has been certified by both BAE Systems and Armscor.
Multi-mission integration kits for helicopters are another speciality ATE brings to the Paramount table as are the manufacture of composite rotor blades.
Paramount prides itself on providing integrated turnkey solutions to global defence, peacekeeping and internal security forces. This has seen it develop a range of security vehicles today in service in many countries, with the Brazilian police becoming the newest user.
It is also a partner in the development of AHRLAC (Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) with Centurion-based Aerosud. The high-wing, single-engined aircraft is at an advanced stage and work is underway on a full scale prototype following 80 successful flights of a quarter size scale model. September has been set down as a potential date for the first prototype flight.