EXCLUSIVE Rocket maker Aerojet solicits acquisition offers -sources

NASA's next-generation moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) with the Orion crew capsule perched on top, stands on launch complex 39B before its rescheduled debut test launch for the Artemis 1 mission at Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. September 2, 2022. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc (AJRD.N), the U.S. rocket maker whose $4.4 billion sale to Lockheed Martin Corp was blocked by antitrust regulators in February, is soliciting offers from potential suitors, including private equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Aerojet, which is providing propulsion engines for NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket, is working with advisers on an auction process and asked for indications of acquisition interest earlier this month, the sources said.

The company, which has a market value of $3.6 billion, may decide not to sell itself if it fails to attract an offer it deems attractive, the sources added.

They requested not to be identified because the matter is confidential. An Aerojet spokesperson declined to comment.

Aerojet shares jumped 7% to $48.46 in morning trading in New York on Tuesday.

Aerojet develops and manufactures liquid and solid rocket propulsion and hypersonic engines for space, defense, civil and commercial applications. Its customers include the Pentagon, Boeing (BA.N), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N).

The El Segundo, California-based company prevailed in a battle for control of its board against former executive chairman Warren Lichtenstein last summer but remains under pressure to boost its performance. Activist hedge fund Elliott Investment Management disclosed it had accumulated a 3.7% stake in Aerojet in August.

Aerojet Chief Executive Eileen Drake said in September that "low to mid-single-digit" sales growth was most probable for the company this year.

Drake added that she expects more orders for Aerojet's defense equipment as the U.S. military replenishes its inventory after supplying Ukraine weapons for its war with Russia.

Reporting by David Carnevali in New York; Addditional reporting by Svea-Herbst Bayliss in Rhode Island Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.