November 18, 2021

Bentley buys power transmission sengineering group for $700m

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Bentley Systems, Incorporated, the infrastructure engineering software company, has entered into a definitive agreement with private equity firm TA Associates for acquisition of Power Line Systems, a leader in software for the design of overhead electric power transmission lines and their structures based in Wisconsin, US, for $700 million.

As an established subscription business with no full-time go-to-market staffing, Power Line Systems generates extraordinary profitability and cashflow, and accordingly, the acquisition is expected to be accretive to BSY’s corresponding financial metrics.

Power Line Systems was founded by University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Alain Peyrot in 1984, and is headquartered in Madison. Its concentrated focus from the outset has been ever-improving engineering tools for overhead power line structures, earning the supportive confidence of transmission engineers as the industry standard of best practice throughout the US, increasingly across Europe, and opportunistically in Asia.

Power Line Systems' software can advantageously bring transmission-grade sophistication to broader applications in overhead distribution and in the communications grid which—to deliver the more intensive reach of 5G—increasingly includes newly shared towers and poles.

Bentley said the acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including HSR Act notification.

Upon closing, Power Line Systems will operate within Bentley’s new Grid Integration Group, combining also its SPIDA analysis products and fast-growing-startup OpenTower business, with Power Line Systems’ current CEO Otto Lynch reporting to Bentley’s Chief Acceleration Officer Santanu Das.

Bentley Systems’ recently developed OpenTower iQ cloud service is generating impactful new business growth by meeting the new demands of communications tower owners for lifecycle digital twins of their existing towers.

Tower digital twins leverage UAV-surveyed reality modeling, machine learning, and asset performance modeling to help maximize these assets’ capacity, revenue, safety, and reliability while minimizing costs and risks of work on site.

On the strategic buy, CEO Greg Bentley said: 'Acquiring Power Line Systems fills a very important gap in our energy grid offerings at this fortuitous juncture when grid upgrades, resilience, and integration combine to drive one of the most urgent and sustained growth opportunities we’ve ever seen.'

'Becoming the going-digital leader in power transmission engineering also adds meaningfully to our ‘ES(D)G’ handprint—empowering sustainable development goals by supporting the world’s much-needed energy transitions to reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to welcoming Lynch and chief technology officer Erik Jacobsen and their colleagues - who have shown how much can be accomplished by so few, through virtuosity in software development and relentless commitment to engineering advancement,' he stated.

'Our global go-to-market resources can now be deployed to take full advantage of burgeoning market demand - a consequence of the momentum driving incremental renewable energy sources and ubiquitous electrification - for going digital in transmission, and integrated grid, engineering,' he added.

Lynch said: 'We are enthused to be joining the like-minded Grid Integration Group within Bentley Systems to enlarge our collective contributions further across the broader grid, further across the infrastructure lifecycle, and further across the world. The community of transmission engineers for whom Power Line Systems has been the go-to software provider will also gain from our expanding scope and reach.'

Ashu Agrawal, a managing director at TA Associates and Power Line Systems board member, said: 'Lynch and the PLS team have created the standard for efficiency and software-enablement of the indispensable work of power transmission engineers. However, the accelerated pace of the global energy transition creates a need for further expansion of and innovation in the grid.'

'We’re confident Bentley Systems can provide the right surrounding constellation to expand Power Line Systems toward full grid digital twins,' added Agarwal.

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