Edwards moves into sprinklers

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In an acquisition reinforcing its earlier investment in a new fire protection offering, fire controls manufacturer Edwards Systems Technology in February acquired a sprinkler design and installation company and its sister manufacturing division.

The purchase of sprinkler installer Upper Valley Fire Protection and Pipco Industrial Supplies by SPX Canada, the parent company of Edwards’ Canadian division, follows Edwards’ 1999 acquisition of Moncton, B.C.-based Barley Sprinkler Co., a sprinkler design, installation and service company with locations throughout Canada. The purchase price of the Upper Valley/Pipco acquisition was not released, but company officials said the two companies had combined annual revenues of about $8 million.

With an customer base that blankets Canada’s two western provinces, Upper Valley and Pipco also adds two large locations to Edward’s Canadian coverage - Upper Valley’s and Pipco’s headquarters in Chillowack, B.C., and Calgary, Alberta, - as well as a handful of sales and service locations. The two principals of Upper Valley and Pipco, Dave Heaps and Alex Logan, will remain with the company and assume different management roles as the two sprinkler firms and their 80 employees are integrated into Edwards’ Canadian operations. Barley’s employees and locations were also folded into the Edwards operations.

“What we’ve done there successfully is to be able to use their customer base in sprinklers to sell our electronic systems to,” said Steve Hein, vice president of marketing for Edwards. The company’s expansion into sprinkler services and manufacturing also dovetails with the company’s overall goal of becoming a total building controls provider, he said.

“We see fire as the core backbone to intelligent building control,” Hein said. “We plan to leverage that core backbone into access control and offer security and intrusion products and CCTV...as well as emergency evacuation services,” Hein said. Edwards also recently finalized its acquisition of IDenticard, a Pennsylvania-based maker of access control systems and has its eye cast toward CCTV. (See related story)

While the relationship between Edwards and Upper Valley was not new - the installation firm had been a subcontractor for Edwards for several years - the two had also been indirect competitors, said Jim McCoubrey, vice president and general manager for Edwards’ Canadian division. While Edwards operated branches in the same markets as Upper Valley, the larger company did not have sprinkler services in those branches and relied on many subcontractors to perform sprinkler services.

“Upper Valley also brought to us the capability of looking at the new construction and renovation side of sprinklers,” McCoubrey said.

Along with Barley’s sprinkler manufacturing arm, Pipco will also manufacture product for Edwards’ other locations.

For Heaps, Upper Valley’s former president and the new national director of sprinklers for Edwards, the time was right to combine forces with Edwards and take advantage of the larger company’s resources.

“My partner and myself saw it as something that we would enjoy doing for our last half a decade in the fire industry,” Heaps said. “We saw some good synergies between the two companies and we hope it will improve our market share.”

While Edwards is typically not an acquisitive company, compared to their major competitor in the life safety market, Tyco International, fire analyst Lee DeVito said that the company is apparently taking advantage of the opportunity to move into yet another realm of fire protection.

“For EST this gives them another outlet to sell,” said DeVito, president of FirePro in Andover, Mass.