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Conair Group has expanded its downstream extrusion equipment business with the April 8 purchase of Metaplast Ltd. of Lachine, Quebec.

The acquisition ``extends our downstream equipment product line dramatically, giving Conair the most comprehensive product line in the extrusion industry,'' claimed Conrad Bessemer, Conair's executive vice president.

Metaplast beefs up Conair's Gatto line of post-extrusion equipment, which mainly has been geared to tubing. Metaplast ``is very strong in the profile extrusion market,'' Bessemer said in a telephone interview.

Metaplast makes belt, cleat and pipe haul-offs and pullers, calibration stands and tables, fly-knife cutters and traveling cut-off saws, vacuum sizing tanks and ancillary products. Although there is some overlap with Gatto products, Metaplast has made larger versions of the products.

Willy Verhufen, who founded Metaplast in 1970, said he sold the company so that Metaplast can benefit from Conair's extensive sales network. He will continue as president of Metaplast, which will remain at Lachine under the Metaplast name. He and Bessemer did not disclose terms of the acquisition.

Lachine is Conair's first Canadian production plant and will be a strategic service site for Conair's Canadian customers, Conair noted in a news release. Metaplast makes custom and stock machinery mainly sold in North America.

Pittsburgh-based Conair is merging its U.S. operations into expanding facilities in Franklin, Pa., and Pittsburgh. Earlier this year it said it will spend $10 million to $15 million to centralize auxiliary equipment production at Franklin and build a new sales and engineering center near Pittsburgh.