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Applied Composites Corp.'s owner plans to expand its thermoset composites business by acquiring Menasha Corp.'s Molded Products Division.

The Watertown, Wis., division has sales of $27 million, employs 270 and molds parts for lawn mowers, buses and other consumer and industrial products, said James Sarosiek, Menasha vice president and general counsel.

Venture Associates, the Memphis, Tenn.-based owner of Applied Composites, said it will rename the Watertown operation Applied Molded Products Corp. It will be headed by William Grisch and John Punis, both executive vice presidents of Applied Composites in St. Charles, Ill.

Watertown has 23 compression molding presses, with clamping forces of 75-4,000 tons. It also has reaction injection molding capability and painting and compounding operations, Applied Composites said.

Sarosiek expects Menasha to complete the sale by about the third week of June. He and Applied Composites officials did not disclose terms. Menasha is selling the division to focus on its core businesses of forest products and packaging, he said in a telephone interview from Menasha headquarters in Neenah, Wis.

Applied Composites' annual sales are similar to Menasha's molding division's sales, said Applied Composites spokeswoman Linda Stritzel said.

The acquisition will be the third in three years for private investment firm Venture Associates. In 1994 it bought Crown Fiberglass of Orrville, Ohio, and merged it with Applied Composites. In 1995 it bought the Roxite Division of Haas and Haas in Rock Falls, Ill., and renamed it Diversified Composites Corp. Applied Composites and Diversified Composites have 30 compression molding presses, with clamping forces of 100-4,000 tons.