lcs 1 littoral combat ship

Gibbs & Cox Seeks Growth Through Acquisition

Rob Almeida
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September 30, 2013

MARINETTE, Wis. (Aug. 4, 2008) The first U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom (LCS 1), is seen conducting a speed run during Builders Trials. Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin

Gibbs & Cox is looking to expand its naval architecture and marine engineering business through acquisition noted company CEO Rick Biben in a phone call this afternoon.

“We’re looking at acquiring a mid-tier engineering firm to help expand our commercial and government solutions business,” said Biben.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, Gibbs & Cox was founded in 1929 and has designed some of the United States’ most famous warships including the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship.

The firms that Mr. Biben and the Board of Directors are considering are located in Northeast, the Pacific Northwest, and in the Tampa-Houston corridor which are near many of Gibbs & Cox’ customer bases.

Biben notes that his company’s business spends 80 percent of their time on government projects and 20 percent on commercial ones such as engineering for shipyards, megayachts, dredges, barges and ferries. Their fingers are crossed for the U.S. Coast Guard’s decision on the design of the next Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC).  5 firms are rumored to still be in the running including Bollinger, Eastern Shipbuilding, General Dynamics BIW, Huntington Ingalls and VT Halter Marine. Biben notes the decision is expected by the end of February in 2014.

Growth via hiring remains a part of Biben’s current game plan, however current financial challenges on the Federal side are keeping their approach more conservative. “We are always keeping an eye out for the best people, but are not aggressively hiring now due to the Federal budget and financial issues. With 80 percent of our business reliant on government contracts, the pending shut down, a yet to be approved budget or continuing resolution, national debt ceiling, sequestration, and other events keep us holding steady at the moment. We currently have about 250 engineers on staff.”

Financially, Biben adds that one bank in particular has offered attractive rates and that they are poised to invest should the right opportunity present itself. Should an acquisition occur, this will be the first time in the company’s 84 year history that Gibbs & Cox has grown their business in such a way.

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