Electronics giant Philips has bought Auckland-based firm Selecon, which designs and makes theatrical and architectural lighting fixtures.

The deal marks a return to manufacturing in New Zealand by the Dutch firm for the first time since the early 1980s.

Northcote-based Selecon was founded in 1969 and employs approximately 95 people throughout Australasia, Europe and North America.

Its specialised equipment has lit up landmarks including the American Museum of Natural History, Hong Kong Science Museum, the Sydney Opera House and the Opera Bastille in Paris.

Selecon will become part of the entertainment group in the Philips professional lighting business, which also encompasses Vari-Lite and Strand Lighting.

The combined operations would have about 10 per cent of the $3.2 billion global entertainment lighting market.

Thomas Folsom, general manager of Strand Lighting, said the purchase of Selecon offered his company the most cost effective way of expansion given the high cost of research and development.

He said there was strong potential for growth at Selecon which would now have access to Philips' 55,000 technology patents.

Because of New Zealand's trade agreements with Asian countries it was possible that some manufacturing could be shifted from Strand's Texas base to this country. No financial details were disclosed for the deal, which took nine months to iron out.

Philips employs more than 120 people throughout New Zealand in sales and marketing. Philips introduced one of the first colour televisions, the Philips K9, to New Zealanders in 1973.