Telescope maker Meade Instruments has been sold to affiliates of Chinese manufacturer Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co. for $5.9 million, ending months of speculation over the future of a storied Irvine firm.
Ningbo, which makes and sells telescopes, binoculars and other tools, paid $4.50 a share, beating two buyout offers that the company was weighing this year.
The sale, approved by shareholders last month, closed in September, said company spokesman Brent Kikawa. Meade was also taken private in the deal.
“Ningbo approached us,” Kikawa said. “It’s one of those Chinese companies that is trying to get a hold of a larger market by getting hold of a well-established brand name here in the States.”
Before buying Meade, Kikawa said, the Chinese company sold products “under the Sunny brand, which in the U.S. and worldwide does not have any brand recognition.”
Meade will now be helmed by Joseph Lupica, a veteran in the telescope industry and formerly a senior executive at rival Celestron for more than two decades.
Peter Ni, chief executive of Ningbo subsidiary Sunny Optics, said there is “a tremendous opportunity for both companies.”
Meade will “continue to maintain its North American sales, marketing and manufacturing facilities,” he said in a statement. “Where possible, Sunny Optics will offer its support to optimize the vertical integration of both companies.”
Meade had previously entertained two other buyout offers.
In mid-May, Meade supplier Jinghua Optics & Electronics Co. in Guangzhou, China, through its U.S. subsidiary, offered to buy the company for $3.45 a share, nearly a 100% premium over Meade’s $1.74 closing price the previous day. Jinghua already had purchased Meade’s European unit.
But shareholders didn’t think the price was high enough, and three law firms said they were looking into whether the board failed to look for better offers.
Then in mid-June, San Jose venture capital firm MIT Capital Inc., using its VictoryOne subsidiary, offered $3.65 a share, an 18-cent premium over the previous day’s closing stock price.
Meade, which hadn’t turned a quarterly profit since May 2008, had been plagued in recent years by tighter spending and changing consumer tastes.
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