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Harris Broadcast Sale ‘On Track’

At least one analyst believes an equity firm will step up

Harris Corp. says the planned sale of its broadcast division remains on-track as a self-imposed year-end deadline approaches.

Harris Corp. has not identified a list of possible suitors, but an analyst with Devoncroft, a market research and strategic analysis company that follows digital media, has written it’s likely a private equity firm will step up and place the high bid for Harris.

Some broadcast industry observers have pointed to Grass Valley, a company that produces technology and services for the video and TV industries, as a potential buyer and possibly the leading candidate. The San Francisco-based private equity firm Francisco Partners acquired Grass Valley in 2011, according to the Grass Valley website.

Grass Valley had no comment.

Harris made public its intention to sell the broadcast division in May. At the time, officials said the broadcast equipment manufacturer would operate as “business as usual.” In November, however, up to 17 people were laid off from the broadcast communications division. Many of those affected worked in Quincy, Ill. Harris didn’t comment on the exact number nor the positions involved. It’s not clear if the layoffs were related to the pending sale.

According to the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper, there were 348 employees at Harris’ Quincy facility at the time the sale was announced earlier this year.

Harris Corp. reported overall revenue in the first quarter of its new fiscal year was down 6% over last year and down 13% from the previous quarter. The results did not include the Broadcast Communications Division because that has been classified as a discontinued operation since the announcement of the sale.

However, Harris Corp. CEO Bill Brown told Wall Street analysts in an October earnings call that the first quarter results for the broadcast division were less than what Harris had hoped for and that the sale “caused some of our customers to be a bit hesitant.”

The company has emphasized on several occasions that it doesn’t expect service and support of Harris products to suffer after the sale.