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Auxiliary equipment maker Thermal Care is now part of a publicly held company, after years as a closely held private firm.

On Dec. 31, MFRI Inc., which is traded on the Nasdaq National Market System, merged with Midwesco Inc. Thermal Care is a division of Midwesco.

No management changes are planned, and a company official said the merger will open up new sources of financing for Thermal Care.

``We have a much greater source of funds being with a larger company,'' said Audrey Guidarelli, Thermal Care's manager of marketing services.

``We have a lot of capital improvements planned as a result of this acquisition, which in the end will result in better lead times for our customers and improved efficiency.''

Thermal Care, based in Niles, Ill., manufacturers industrial water cooling equipment, including chillers, cooling towers, pump/reservoirs, temperature controllers and water treatment systems. Thermal Care employs 105 and generates sales of more than $20 million.

MFRI and Midwesco used to be privately held companies with common ownership, said Guidarelli. When it was private, MFRI was named Filter Resources.

The company went public in 1989, becoming MFRI. Midwesco, meanwhile, remained a private company that owned Thermal Care.

Through the first nine months of fiscal 1996, MFRI reported sales of $70.3 million. MFRI's fiscal year ended Jan. 31, so year-end numbers were not available for this story.

Under the merger, shareholders of Midwesco receive shares of MFRI. Thermal Care equipment will become the third product category for MFRI. The company also manufactures industrial air filtration products and specialty piping systems products.