GE buys Germany's Concept Laser after SLM bid fails

The logo of Down Jones Industrial Average stock market index listed company General Electric is shown at their subsidiary company GE Aviation in Santa Ana, California April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - U.S. conglomerate General Electric GE.N has agreed to buy privately held German 3D printing firm Concept Laser for 549 million euros ($599 million), it said on Thursday, after its bid for rival SLM Solutions AM3D.DE failed.

GE and its competitors have begun to invest seriously in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, which produces parts with less work than traditional production methods, generates less scrap material and expands design possibilities.

The U.S. group is initially buying 75 percent of Lichtenfels-based Concept Laser, which specializes in metal additive manufacturing, with an agreement allowing it to take full ownership in a number of years.

GE abandoned its bid for SLM on Wednesday after activist investor Elliott Advisors, which owns 20 percent of SLM, rejected its bid, making it harder for GE to reach its minimum acceptance threshold.

It did, however, raise its bid and lower its minimum acceptance condition on Thursday for Swedish 3D printer maker Arcam ARCM.ST, in which Elliott also owns a stake.

Concept Laser’s customer base is focused on the aerospace, medical and dental industries, and it also has a presence in the automotive and jewelry sectors, GE said. The company has more than 200 staff, including operations in Texas and China.

GE, which has spent about $1.5 billion on additive technology research, said it would invest “significantly” in Lichtenfels, which would become a new German center for the group. Co-founder Frank Herzog will stay on as chief executive.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Maria Sheahan