Safran Said to Near Purchase of L-1 Units for $800 Million

Safran SA, the French maker of engines for Airbus SAS and Boeing Co., is nearing an agreement to buy units of L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. for $800 million to $1 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Safran is seeking to buy businesses including the biometric unit that runs applications such as face- and iris-recognition software, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks remain private. Safran spokeswoman Catherine Malek declined to comment.

Talks between the two sides are well advanced, the person said. L-1, based in Stamford, Connecticut, is “still in the process” of negotiating a sale and can’t comment, spokeswoman Doni Fordyce said.

Safran Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Herteman is seeking to bolster biometric technology, used for fingerprint, palm, iris and facial recognition. The company lost a bidding contest in 2008 to buy a unit of Beaverton, Oregon-based Digimarc Corp. when the business was sold to L-1 for $310 million. Safran has predicted that the biometrics market will grow 15 percent annually over the next five years.

The acquisition would allow Safran to better serve customers including the U.S. government that track biometric data. The Paris-based manufacturer garnered 19 percent of its revenue from defense security solutions last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.