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Aether now owns Cerulean


Aether Systems Inc. said yesterday that it has completed the purchase of a leading seller of wireless products and services to government agencies.

The Owings Mills-based wireless technology company bought Cerulean Technology Inc., based outside Boston, with a mix of cash and stock valued at $150 million.

With the acquisition of Cerulean, Aether is poised to expand its business from the private into the public sector, according to officials from both companies. Cerulean, a privately held company, has a 40 percent share of wireless product sales to public safety agencies.

"Cerulean will be the pillar of a new market for Aether called 'mobile government,'" said Gregg Smith, Aether's vice president of business affairs. "They are a market leader in this particular space. They have systems deployed in 47 states."

Cerulean provides mobile software to more than 45,000 users at 700 public agencies across all levels of government. Its products include in-vehicle laptop systems that enable police officers to download information about drivers by entering their tag numbers.

Smith said Aether will look to expand Cerulean's offerings from public safety agencies to more government agencies. Aether's wireless networks and handheld computing devices are used by financial services, health care and logistics companies.

"Public safety was one of the earli est adopters of wireless data," Smith said. "This is just our entree into this market."

The absorption of Cerulean, which has 130 employees, will bring Aether's work force to more than 700, including 300 in Maryland - 250 in Owings Mills and 50 in Bethesda.

It is Aether's sixth acquisition since going public in October.

"What we're finding is some consolidation is going on right now in the wireless industry," said Steven Hanson, an analyst for New York-based research firm Merger Insights. "It's really a market that's still in its infancy. Through small mergers and acquisitions, these companies can grow themselves."

Under the terms of the deal, Aether gave 462,412 shares, valued at $65 million, $10 million in employee stock options and $75 million in cash to Cerulean in exchange for all its shares.

Aether officials said there would be no changes in employees or locations for the company.

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