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01.14.2013

AMETEK, Inc. Acquires Sunpower, Inc.

GrowthPoint Technology Partners, LLC acted as the financial advisor to Sunpower, Inc. in its sale to AMETEK, Inc. (NYSE:AME), a $10 billion industrial technology conglomerate.

Headquartered in Athens, OH, Sunpower, Inc. designs and develops high reliability cryocoolers and externally heated Stirling Cycle engines, which can be used for combined heat and power systems (“CHP”). In CHP, the energy in the fuel is used twice: first, to generate electricity and then, with the exhaust heat, to heat hot water. This practical approach dramatically improves overall efficiency.

While other engines such as diesel or gasoline engines can be used for CHP, the Sunpower engine is special: it is externally fired. Because external firing is a “steady state” and controllable process that has minimal pollution, emissions such as unburned hydrocarbons, soot, and NOx are much lower from a Sunpower engine than the pollution from internal combustion engines.

Basic hardware layout of the Advanced Stirling Convertor (ASC-E2), which consists of a Free-Piston Stirling Engine with a linear alternator to produce electricity. Source: Sunpower.com

The Sunpower engine is also maintenance free, so the hassle and cost of oil changes, tune ups and piston ring wear is eliminated. Thus, it is an ideal device for residential applications, where the homeowner can install it and forget about it, while enjoying the benefit of lower electric and gas bills.

Interestingly, their cryocoolers are based on the same free-piston Stirling technology as their engines. In this case, the cryocoolers are used to lower temperatures below -150°C without the use of expensive liquid nitrogen. The process is reversed from that of a heat engine and electrical energy is used to drive the engine “backwards” to create extreme cold. Extreme cold is needed in a variety of scientific instruments and sensors. For example, thermal imaging devices used by the military contain a very sensitive detector that must be cooled to eliminate the background noise generated by the sensor, itself, when it is warm. Many other detectors and sensors have similar requirements and must be cooled to very low temperatures in order to make them work.

SunPower Cryocooler. Source: SunPower.com

“Sunpower’s cryogenic cooling technology plays a critical role in our highly successful ORTEC Detective® family of portable radiation identifiers,” commented Frank S. Hermance, AMETEK Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “It provides a platform to support the continued growth of this product family while providing us with opportunities to broaden the application of cryogenic cooling and Stirling heat engine technology.”

Sunpower becomes part of AMETEK Advanced Measurement Technology (AMT), a division of AMETEK’s Electronic Instruments Group — a recognized leader in advanced monitoring, testing, calibrating and display instruments with annualized sales of $1.9 billion. The complete announcement by can be found at AMETEK.com

Andrew Patton, Vice President at GrowthPoint, commented that “we take pride in our deep technology roots. It was an enriching experience for us to learn about the company’s technology capabilities, help the client understand how acquirers would think about their potential, and lead the negotiation and completion of a successful transaction.” GrowthPoint provides M&A and financial advisory services to technology companies around the world.

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