Mumbai: MKU Ltd, a Kanpur-based defence equipment supplier, is exploring the option of going public and could soon start work on an initial public offering (IPO), two people aware of the development said.

MKU supplies protective gear and surveillance equipment and other solutions to the Indian Army. The company’s product portfolio includes ballistic vests, ballistic helmets and other personal protection products for military and security forces as well as platform armouring solutions for land-air-sea platforms. “The company has been contemplating going public for some time and they have appointed domestic investment bank Equirus Capital to advise them on the transaction," said one of the persons cited above, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to speak with the media.

The person added that MKU’s plans to go public are at an initial stage and it could be some time before the company goes ahead and files its documents with the regulator.

“They have been growing at a strong pace and going public will help them raise funds to expand the business," the person said.

Equirus Capital declined to comment on the development. In an email response to Mint’s queries, a spokesperson for MKU Ltd said, “Yes we do plan to come up with an IPO but the timelines have not yet been decided. We will let you know at the opportune time."

MKU was founded by G.K. Gupta in 1985 to manufacture and supply fibre glass helmets to the Indian armed forces. It started manufacturing body armour in the year 2000. The company diversified into electro-optics in the year 2012 by acquiring the technology to indigenously manufacture night vision and thermal devices in India.

The company now has four manufacturing facilities, of which three are in India and one in Sittensen, Germany. MKU’s products are used by 230 forces in more than 100 countries, according to its website.

Several defence companies, led primarily by state-owned enterprises, have gone public lately and several others have filed their draft IPO documents with regulators.

In March, the biggest Indian state-owned defence manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) went public. The Rs4,229 crore IPO of HAL was subscribed 99%.

HAL is engaged in the design, development, manufacture, repair, overhaul, upgrade and servicing of aircraft, aero engines, helicopters, avionics, accessories and aerospace structures. HAL makes fighter planes such as SU-30 Mki, MIG-21, MIG-27 and Jaguar.

The month of March also saw other defence PSUs, Bharat Dynamics Ltd and Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd go public.

The government raised Rs960 crore and Rs438 crore, respectively, from the two IPOs.

Bharat Dynamics manufactures surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), underwater weapons, launchers, countermeasures and test equipment, and supplies them to the Indian armed forces, while Mishra Dhatu Nigam is a speciality alloy maker.

Other defence PSUs that are expected to go public soon include shipbuilders Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers.

So far in 2018, 14 companies have raised Rs18,591.7 crore through the IPO market, data from primary market tracker Prime Database shows. In 2017, 64 companies accessed the IPO market to raise Rs67,147.4 crore, data shows.

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