Boeing says it won’t consider Aerojet Rocketdyne’s $2 billion offer for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but there were signs the suitor intends to sweeten the offer.
Indeed, the broad reaction to the initial bid for ULA was that it was so low as to suggest an offer only for select assets. But a source with knowledge of the situation said the first bid was purposely conservative pending necessary due diligence.
ULA hasn’t allowed that so far. But it’s believed Lockheed Martin is more interested in a deal for ULA than Boeing and might be in a position to allow Aerojet Rocketdyne access to limited financial briefing information in the weeks ahead.
Aerojet Rocketdyne first contacted the companies in early August about its interest in acquiring Centennial, Colo.-based ULA, which NASA uses for select rocket launch and a comprehensive array of related services. ULA also provides launch services for non-government satellites.
Based in Sacramento, Calif., Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactures rocket and missile engines. It was formed in 2013 by the merger of Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
Formed in 2006, ULA uses Delta II, Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, with plans to use the Vulcan rocket under development by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in coming years. Those plans have thwarted a proposal to have ULA upgrade the Atlas V with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new AR-1 engine, and there is speculation the ULA takeover attempt is motivated in part by a desire to reverse the decision.
In any event, a ULA buyout would reset the competitive field in the space sector. Yet it was unclear whether even a sweetened offer can overcome Boeing’s resistance.
“Divesting ULA is not something we’re thinking about at this time,” Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said.
He declined to comment on how Boeing might react to a sweetened offer.