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EI-backed robot firm sells twice

NICK WEBB A ROBOTIC bomb disposal firm backed by Enterprise Ireland (EI) and former Adare Printing Plc boss Nelson Loane was sold twice this year.

Kentree, a Cork-based robotic manufacturing firm, was sold to British defence firm PW Allen earlier this year. PW Allen was established as a specialist equipment manufacturer for the UK Ministry of Defence. It manufactures bomb search and detection devices and anti-terrorism equipment.

The enlarged entity was then bought by Canadian anti-terrorist device firm Vanguard Response Services in a ?22m cash, shares and warrants deal three months ago.

EI paid out close to ?370,000 in various R&D and training grants to Kentree, as well as an equity purchase in the firm. The State body has received about ?84,000 for some of its equity and cumulative preferences shares. Vanguard is also expected to make an "uplift" payment to EI in coming months, as part of the takeover deal.

EI held cumulative preference shares as well as about 23 per cent of the ordinary shares in the firm. Loane, who took quoted print firm Adare private in a ?161m deal in 2000, is listed in the latest company annual return as owning about 42 per cent of the firm.

Last week, Vanguard Response Systems announced it had received orders for 16 bomb-disposal robots costing $1.6m and bomb-technician tools valued at a further $1m. The robot orders are for security forces in China, Uzbekistan and West Africa, as well as for bomb disposal teams across America.

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