AEA Technology Battered by Costly Roll-Out Mistakes

June 14, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

AEA Technology plc (UK), a high-tech battery business, suffered losses after mistakes dogged the start of production of a new power system for the Army. The shift from the laboratory to volume manufacture of the lithium-ion battery for battlefield communications systems had been marred by a series of costly errors by AEA.

The problems with the Bowman contract led to increased operating losses of £4.1 million, up from £300,000 for the business that AEA wants to offload to focus on it core rail and environmental consulting arms. The company had to raise equity funding to persuade banks to provide a new £83 million borrowing facility.

Recently appointed Chief Executive Andrew McRee said, "During the roll-out, expensive mistakes were made in manufacturing. These have been rectified."

AEA, which was spun out of the Atomic Energy Authority, has had a number of bid approaches for the unit, whose technology is used to produce batteries that are light, powerful and durable. AEA may yet float the business on the Alternative Investment Market, and has discussed such a move with advisers.