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New Hampshire firm acquires Santa Rosa thermal furnace maker

Santa Rosa thermal furnace maker Thermal Technology has been acquired by a New Hampshire company seeking new technologies for manufacturing crystals and next-generation smartphone screens.

GT Advanced Technologies of Nashua, N.H., purchased the 65-worker Santa Rosa company for 3.4 million shares of common stock, valued at $14.7 million when the deal was announced last week, plus an unspecified future amount.

GT, a publicly traded company, supplies manufacturing equipment for solar and energy-efficient lighting products. About 95 percent of the company's revenues come from Asia.

Tom Gutierrez, GT's president and CEO, said the acquisition will position his company to be "the industry's leading provider of sapphire production solutions."

Thermal Technology makes high-temperature vacuum furnaces for creating a variety of advanced components, including sapphire crystals for light-emitting diodes. Components made from its systems are used in smartphones, medical devices and automotive products.

Gutierrez told analysts last week in a conference call that Thermal Technology products rely on a different process for growing crystals than those built by GT. Should future applications require different approaches, GT could offer the full spectrum of technologies and reduce the risk of "somebody selecting one path over the other and us not having a horse in the race."

The acquisition also provides a technology that GT believes will be important in the manufacturing of sapphire cover screens for use one day with smartphones and other products. The screens, which GT is already developing, are touted as more scratch resistant than current versions.

"This is an exciting moment for the company, our employees and our customers," Matt Mede, president and CEO of Thermal Technology, said in a statement. "The acquisition will open new opportunities for growth for our products and technology as we integrate them into GT's business operations."

Gutierrez estimated the acquisition would result in $9 million to $14 million in added revenue through the remainder of the fiscal year.

GT reported annual revenues of $955.7 million for fiscal 2012, an increase of 6 percent.

Thermal Technology moved to Santa Rosa in 1988. In 2007, Mede partnered with an Austrian company, INTECO Special Melting Technologies, to purchase the company for an undisclosed sum.


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