Rubbermaid Inc. has re-established a beachhead in the European housewares market, this time through acquisition. The Wooster, Ohio, company March 1 bought Injectaplastic SA, a French company with $19 million in annual sales, for undisclosed terms.
Rubbermaid's presence in Europe shrank last year when it sold its minority interest in joint venture Curver Rubbermaid Group to Curver's parent, DSM NV. The Wooster firm and DSM could not agree on strategic decisions for Curver Rubbermaid.
``We want to control our own destiny [in Europe],'' Rubbermaid spokesman William Pfund said March 1 by tele-phone. ``Europe is an attractive and important market.''
``[Rubbermaid] is buying infrastructure and a relationship,'' said Eric Bosshard, research analyst with Roulston Research Corp. of Cleveland. ``[The deal] is better than a joint venture like they had before. Rubbermaid has been limited in Europe since they dissolved the Curver partnership last year.''
Pfund said Rubbermaid plans to be a ``major factor'' in Europe's housewares market through acquisition, construction of new plants and possibly licensing deals with outside molders. He provided no details.
Injectaplastic has one plant in Groissant near Oyonnax, in France's ``plastics valley.'' Housewares are its major market, but it also supplies camping, bathroom and garden products, in France and nearby countries. Pfund said injection molding is the operation's main process, but he provided no details on equipment or capacity.
Rubbermaid has no immediate plan to expand the Groissant plant, but will broaden its product line and increase distribution throughout France and Europe, where markets are fragmented geographically.
Bosshard said Rubbermaid will need to build a distribution infrastructure in Europe, which could be a lengthy exercise.
``Distribution is a tedious task. Retail and distribution are far behind networks in the United States. In Europe, for example, there is no Wal-Mart,'' he said.
Rubbermaid initially will keep the Injectaplastic name for the Groissant operation, which will report to Larry Porcellato, managing director for Rubbermaid's Home and Seasonal Products-Europe in Luxembourg. It also will retain President Maurice Verchere and managing director Marc Verchere, the father-and-son team that built the business and sold it to Rubbermaid.
``Injectaplastic is an outstanding vehicle to begin our re-entry into the attractive European housewares marketplace,'' Wolfgang Schmitt, Rubbermaid chairman and chief executive officer, said in a March 1 news release.
Rubbermaid held 40 percent of 4-year-old Rubbermaid Curver before it and Netherlands-based DSM parted ways in May. The venture had several operations across Europe. DSM's Curver Group claimed to be Europe's largest housewares maker.
Rubbermaid previously had an outdoor furniture joint venture with Allibert SA of France, which the partners split up in 1992.
Rubbermaid's Little Tikes unit this year started production at a toy plant in Differdange, Luxembourg. The project cost more than $10 million and includes rotational and blow molding.
Rubbermaid plans to have 30 percent of sales from non-U.S. markets by 2000. Sales outside the country accounted for about 16 percent of its 1994 total of $2.17 billion, Pfund estimated.
The foreign sales target is more ambitious than the 25 percent non-U.S. target noted when Rubbermaid announced the Little Tikes project in January 1994.