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Irvine Telescope Manufacturer Meade Plans IPO

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Telescope manufacturer Meade Instruments Corp. said Wednesday it hopes to raise $26 million through an initial public stock offering.

Meade will use proceeds from the sale of 2.5 million shares to retire debt and to cover general operating expenses. An additional 850,000 shares are being sold by a partnership that invested in the company during a previous private offering.

Existing shareholders, including an employee stock ownership plan, will hold 55.1% of the company’s outstanding shares after the planned offering.

Meade, a leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of telescopes for amateur astronomers, offers more than 40 models priced between $100 and $15,000. The Irvine-based company reported $29.8 million in sales during the year ended Feb. 29, 1996.

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Founded in 1972, Meade now supplies telescopes to retailers ranging from The Nature Company to Wal-Mart. The company’s 240 employees manufacture higher-end telescopes in Irvine, while Meade’s lower-end telescopes are manufactured in Taiwan.

Founder John Diebel, 53, serves as chairman and chief executive officer. Diebel is a former engineer at TRW Inc. and Hughes Aircraft Co.

Meade recently won strong reviews for its new ETX Astro Telescope, which Sky and Telescope magazine described as the “hottest scope ever.” Meade also has decided to enter the hotly competitive binocular market, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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