Fluke Networks agrees to buy Phoenix firm

By Mike Benbow

Herald Writer

Fluke Networks Inc., the small spinoff from Everett’s Fluke Corp., is getting bigger in a hurry with the planned acquisition of Phoenix-based Microtest Inc.

The Everett company announced Wednesday that it had signed an agreement with Microtest to pay $8.15 cents a share, or about $74 million, in an all-cash transaction.

"We greatly respect Microtest’s pioneering of the cable test industry and the numerous products they have successfully brought to market over the past few years," said Chris Odell, president of Fluke Networks. "The complementary combination of Microtest and Fluke Networks will strengthen our ability to deliver timely network supervision solutions, compete more effectively in the marketplace and better respond to the rapidly changing needs of cabling and networking professionals around the world."

Microtest, founded in 1984, sells computer and communications network testing tools and network storage and appliance servers.

Fluke Networks focuses on testing tools for network engineers and technicians. The Everett company has about 400 employees and was spun off from Fluke Corp., an international retailer of test and measurement instruments.

The acquisition comes on the heels of Fluke Networks’ purchase in late March of Fotec Inc., a Medford, Mass., company founded in 1981 that specializes in test instruments for fiber-optic networks. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

Fluke Network officials said at the time that Fotec’s annual sales were less than $5 million.

Microtest, which has employees throughout the United States and various countries, had revenues of $44.6 million during 2000. Fluke’s revenues are about $150 million annually.

Fluke Network officials said the two purchases will prepare the company to compete against much larger test and measurement companies like Agilent, Textron/Greenlee and Ideal. All have made recent acquisitions to strengthen themselves in the highly competitive market, they added.

"Of all the options we considered, selling to Fluke Networks made the most sense for our employees, shareholders and customers," said Vincent Hren, president and CEO of Microtest Inc. "We respect Fluke Networks’ commitment to win in its markets, and find their pursuit of excellence closely models our own."

Fluke and Fluke Networks are owned by Danaher, a Washington, D.C., holding company that owns a variety of businesses.

The acquisition is a good fit, officials said, because Fluke Networks focuses on tools to help maintain networks while Microtest’s product line is aimed more at installers. Together, they have products for all aspects of the market.

Fluke Networks said it will offer jobs to most Microtest employees, but that some will be let go through restructuring in Microtest businesses not core to Fluke Networks. However, Microtest’s Network Test staffing is expected to remain largely as it is today, with most employees continuing to work in the Phoenix area.

You can call Herald Writer Mike Benbow at 425-339-3459

or send e-mail to benbow@heraldnet.com.

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