NYPRO BUYING AUTOMOTIVE MOLDER DJ INC.

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Nypro Inc., already a powerhouse in custom injection molding, plans to be a bigger force by acquiring DJ Inc. of Louisville, Ky.

The Clinton, Mass., firm will extend its geographic and market base with the acquisition. DJ is big in automotive, a small market for Nypro. DJ's plants in Louisville and Hazzard, Ky., and El Paso, Texas, will plug regional gaps in Nypro's current slate of 12 U.S. plants, Nypro President Gordon Lankton said in a telephone interview.

Lankton cited the El Paso plant as a highlight of the acquisition because it is in one of the fastest-growing parts of the country.

Lankton said the companies hope to complete the acquisition in April. He did not disclose terms.

DJ's sales have grown more than 400 percent since 1990, officials claimed. It recorded sales of about $82 million for the year ended Sept. 30. Harry Pelle, DJ's vice president of manufacturing, said his company's focus on customer service and quality helped it thrive while original equipment manufacturers were cutting their supplier base.

Nypro's total sales, including joint ventures, for the year ended June 30 were $296 million. It operates 20 molding, assembly and tooling plants around the world and employs about 3,500. Pelle said the Nypro/DJ combination ``will make a formidable molder.''

DJ's largest markets are appliances, automotive parts, computers and electronics. Major customers include GE Appliances; Allied-Signal's automotive division, for which it molds seat belt and other components; and Toyota, for which it molds interior and other parts.

The company's 1,000 employees also do assembly and make tooling. Pelle said his company has about 210 injection molding presses, 60 of which are in the El Paso plant it opened about three years ago.

T. Raymond Pelle, DJ's president, and Bobby Allen cofounded DJ in 1972. Raymond Pelle plans to continue in a consulting role, but both eventually will retire, said Harry Pelle, Raymond Pelle's son and a co-owner.

Harry Pelle plans to continue with DJ as vice president. Lankton said Jim Goodman, an executive vice president with Hanna Color of Suwanee, Ga., will become DJ's president March 15. Hanna Color is a unit of M.A. Hanna Co. of Cleveland. Rob Fields and Michelle Quinn will continue as general managers of the Louisville and El Paso operations, respectively.

Raymond Pelle said in a news release that he and Lankton first visited each other's plants more than eight years ago ``and have been talking ever since.'' He felt Nypro's culture was right for DJ if officials ever decided to sell the company.

The sale ``is right for me and all the DJ employees, and for the future stability and growth of DJ,'' he said.

Nypro's plants are in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Georgia, North Carolina, Chicago, Iowa, Alabama, San Diego, Oregon, Colorado, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Wales, Russia, China and India. They supply diverse industries.

Lankton did not rule out further acquisitions and said Nypro ``is always looking at three or four opportunities.''