In the largest-ever acquisition by the St. Paul, Minn.-based manufacturing giant, 3M agreed to acquire Bloomington, Minn.-based Capital Safety from private equity firm KKR for $2.5 billion. Capital Safety is one of the industry's biggest makers of fall-protection safety equipment.

"The acquisition of Capital Safety bolsters our personal-safety platform and will build on our fundamental strengths in technology," said 3M Chairman Inge G. Thulin in a press statement. "Personal safety is a large and strategically important growth business in the 3M portfolio." In the same statement, 3M described the protective-equipment industry as a strategic priority for the company, citing an increased regulatory focus on worker safety around the world.

Capital Safety has expanded its global presence in recent years, with rising sales in China, Brazil and the Middle East. Overall, the company saw an annual sales growth rate of 10% over the past four years.

Capital Safety manufacturers several popular brands of fall-prevention harnesses and self-retracting lanyards, including DBI-SALA and PROTECTA. The company booked $430 million in sales for the last fiscal year. According to 3M, Capital Safety will become a part of its Safety and Graphic Business Group, which already offers its own lines of respirators and hearing-protection safety gear. 3M also currently makes safety eyewear and reflective, high-visibility clothing.

"This is a great strategic fit and provides Capital Safety and its employees with a strong platform for future growth," said Stephen Oswald, CEO of Capital Safety. "Each company also highly values innovation, and this will enable us to drive further product development."

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. 3M says the $2.5-billion acquisition will be made with available cash, and the price includes the assumption of roughly $700 million in debt.