ABB Ltd  (ABB - Get Report) said Tuesday that it will buy Bernecker + Rainer Industrie-Elektronik GmbH (BR), an Austrian group which designs factory automation technology, for an undisclosed sum that could be the Swiss firm's biggest acquisition in more than five years.

ABB said B&R's current annual revenue is around $600 million, a figure it wants to lift to around $1 billion in the near term. The Swiss engineering group said it would fund the purchase in cash and expects the deal to be accretive to earnings in the second half of 2018, one year after the transaction is expected to close.

"B&R is a gem in the world of machine and factory automation and this combination is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This transaction marks a true milestone for ABB, as B&R will close the historic gap within ABB's automation offering," said CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. "This is a perfect fit and will make us the only industrial automation provider offering customers the entire spectrum of technology and software solutions around measurement, control, actuation, robotics, digitalization and electrification."

The deal is likely to be the largest for ABB since 2012, when it paid $3.9 billion for Memphis, Tenn-based electrical components designer Thomas & Betts

ABB shares were marked 0.4% higher at Sfr23.37 each in Zurich by 11:45 CET Tuesday, extending their three-month gain to around 7.6% compared to a 3.8% gain for the SMI index benchmark.