Geomembrane maker GSE completes IPO

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HOUSTON (Updated Feb. 16, 4:20 p.m. ET) — GSE Holding Inc., a Houston-based maker of polyethylene geomembranes and liners, went public with a stock offering on Feb. 10.

GSE’s per-share stock price opened at $10.30 on Feb. 10 and was at $11.85 in late trading Feb. 16 for an increase of 15 percent. The initial public offering originally had 7 million shares expected to be priced at $9 per share.

The firm had planned to go public in December, but delayed that move because of market conditions. GSE employs almost 600 and had sales of about $460 million in 2011 - an increase of about 35 percent vs. 2010. The firm’s 2011 profit also grew almost 50 percent to $44 million.

In a public filing, GSE officials said the firm leads the global geomembrane market with a 24 percent share. Major end use markets for GSE’s geomembranes and liners include mining, waste management, liquid containment, coal ash containment and shale oil and gas.

GSE president and chief executive officer Mark Arnold said in a Feb. 16 phone interview that his firm will use proceeds from the IPO to pay down debt and “to fund the next stage of our growth.” GSE has total debt of about $200 million.

“As we grow, we needed to expand our working capital,” Arnold added. “We’re the industry leader, and because of that our customers look to us for new products and to solve problems.”

That growth will include a new production plant at an undisclosed location, Arnold said. New production capacity will be added by the end of the year at GSE’s plants in Houston; Kingstree, S.C.; Egypt and Thailand, he added. The firm also operates plants in Spearfish, S.D.; Germany and Chile. GSE generates almost 60 percent of its sales from outside North America.

The new capacity also will create new jobs. “We are definitely a job creator,” Arnold said. He added that GSE has seen solid growth in the mining sector, where its products are used for containment and drainage. The shale oil and gas sector holds great potential, Arnold said, but it’s not currently GSE’s largest growth market.

For full-year 2010, GSE’s sales grew 18 percent to almost $343 million. Pretax profit for 2010 increased about 33 percent to more than $28 million, but GSE still posted an overall loss of about $16 million for the year.

GSE was founded as Gundle Corp. in 1981 and grew through acquisitions before being bought by Chicago private equity firm CHS Capital LLC in 2004. GSE ranked 48th in a recent Plastics News ranking of North America’s largest film and sheet makers, with related sales estimated at $135 million.

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