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Fortis Plastics to auction off equipment

By: Bill Bregar

December 8, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IND. (Dec. 8, 2:25 p.m. ET) — The New Year will bring a giant auction — more than 130 injection presses and 20 extruders — from four closed-down plants of Fortis Plastics LLC.

Branford Group and Great American Group will conduct the auctions over three weeks, one plant at a time, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 2.

“It’s an unprecedented offering of injection molding and extrusion equipment that hasn’t hit the market in a long time,” said James Gardner, senior vice president of auction sales at Branford Group.

The auction covers Fortis plants in Jackson, Tenn.; Fort Smith, Ark., South Bend, Ind.; and Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Gardner said he is open to selling the plants on a turnkey basis. “If somebody’s interested in buying the entire plant, we would be interested in discussing it with them,” he said.

The injection presses up for sale range in clamping force from 50-1,000 tons. The larger-tonnage machines in the mix should grab special attention from buyers, since a recovery in the automotive sector has dried up used big injection molding equipment. Nameplates include Milacron, Van Dorn Demag, Negri Bossi, Toshiba, Toyo, Battenfeld, JSW and Sumitomo. The auction also will sell robots, auxiliary equipment and toolroom equipment.

Some of the newer injection presses include a 1,000 ton Cincinnati Milacron press from 2000, a 2006 Negri Bossi 700-ton machine, and a 2004 Milacron Maxima of 725 tons.

There are a lot of mid- to late-1990s Van Dorn and Cincinnati Milacron injection molding machines.

The extruders include Cincinnati and Davis-Standard lines.

Branford Group is in Branford, Conn. Great American Group is based in Los Angeles.

Fortis Plastics was formed in 2008 when New York private investment group Monomoy Capital Partners LP, acquired and combined the custom molding divisions of Leggett & Platt Inc. and Atlantis Plastics Inc.

In its most recent plant closure, Fortis Plastics announced in late October that it was shuttering its corporate headquarters and molding plant in South Bend by the end of the year — news that followed the announcement of plans to close Poplar Bluff and Fort Smith. Fortis closed a total of nine plants since Monomoy Capital put the business together.

Whirpool Corp., a major Fortis customer, is closing a refrigerator plant in Fort Smith next year. The depressed home construction and real estate markets have hurt appliance sales.

Officials of Fortis and Monomoy Capital did not return a telephone call and an email seeking comment. Fortis Plastics continues to run a plant in Carlyle, Ill., and two plants in Mexico, at Ramos Arizpe and Chihuahua.

Gardner called the series of auctions “a marquee event of 2012.” Used machinery dealers agreed.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting to see four separate plants with over 130 injection molding machines go up for auction over a three-week period,” said Robert Risbridger, president of Plastics One Inc. in Wallingford, Conn. “It’ll be a good test to see if the market is still strong for all ages and sizes of equipment.”

The auction business has slowed down from its frantic pace of the Great Recession, when plant closings for automotive molders and other industries dumped lots of late-model used machinery on the market. Now the stronger U.S. manufacturing economy is boosting sales of new machines. There are fewer auctions these days.

The pivotal timing means that machinery executives will be watching the Fortis auctions closely.

“It’s one of the largest multiple offerings to date for injection molding, not seen since the Great Recession,” said Nate Smith, president of Absolute Machinery Corp. of Worcester, Mass.

Risbridger said: “It will be interesting to see putting this many machines on the market all at once. There hasn’t been a good multi-plant auction this in awhile, since the ’08, ’09 crash.”