Harris launches sale of assets after deal with Jana: sources

(Reuters) - U.S. defense contractor Harris Corp HRS.N has launched the sale of parts of its Critical Networks division, according to people familiar with the matter, its first divestiture move after striking a deal with activist hedge fund Jana Partners.

The asset sale, which could fetch more than $1 billion, comes after Harris, a major supplier of U.S. Army radios, signed an agreement with Jana in August to add two new independent directors to its board. Harris promised at the time to continue to assess its portfolio to identify non-core assets.

Harris’ information technology services operation, which sits within Critical Networks, is among the divisions up for sale, the people said this week, citing marketing materials sent to potential buyers. This and other parts of Critical Networks could draw more than $500 million in the sale, the sources said.

The company’s business that supplies communications services to the energy industry, known as Harris CapRock Communications, is also expected to be sold in a separate process, according to the sources. CapRock could also attract offers of more than $500 million, the sources said.

Selling off sections of that division would help the company lower its energy industry exposure, in addition to reducing its debt load. The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is not yet public. Harris declined to comment.

Shares of Harris were flat at $91.38 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

The Melbourne, Florida-based company, with around $7.5 billion in annual revenue, is organized into four business segments: communication systems, which sells military and civilian radios; space and intelligence systems; electronic systems; and critical networks.

“When we believe a business is not core to our strategy to drive shareholder value, we undertake proactive steps, as evidenced by the recent sale of Aerostructures and the sale of our commercial healthcare and broadcast communications businesses in prior years,” Harris CEO Bill Brown told analysts on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Aug. 2.

Harris said in its fiscal year-end report that revenue pressure would likely increase next year. It pointed to CapRock’s energy industry exposure and weakness in its IT segment as among the reasons behind the revenue pressure.

The company's fiscal 2016 net income dipped 3 percent to $324 million, it said in August. The company's shares have risen 5.3 percent year-to-date, while the S&P 500 Index .INX is up 5.9 percent. Harris has a market capitalization of $11.3 billion.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington and Michael Flaherty in New York; Editing by Will Dunham