Another newcomer to the plastics furniture business plans to grab a chunk of the market through acquisition. Marley plc of Sevenoaks, England, near London, agreed to pay about $140 million cash for Syroco Inc. of East Boston, Mass., a subsidiary of Syratech Corp. Syroco is the largest plastic casual furniture producer in the United States, with a 25 percent share of the market, Marley officials estimate. Syroco's casual furniture sales last year were about $82 million, mainly to mass merchandisers.
Last fall, Sunbeam-Oster Co. Inc. paid $25 million to acquire Rubbermaid Inc.'s casual outdoor plastic furniture business, with annual sales of about $40 million.
Marley chose to enter the
U.S. furniture market because it is growing and less mature than the European market, said Marley spokesman Gareth Whiley.
``In some European countries [plastics furniture] has 60 percent penetration, but in the United States, penetration is about 30 percent,'' Whiley said in a March 29 telephone interview from England.
Marley's main plastics businesses so far have been plumbing and building supplies and automotive parts. It also makes concrete and clay building products.
Marley estimated the U.S. plastics furniture market has been growing 8 percent annually for the past five years.
A Syroco competitor said the 1995 market promises to be a good one, but plastic furniture is a ``very competitive business with low return on investment, especially since the price of plastic resins went up.''
Marley's price for Syroco is high but it could include a lot of inventory and accounts receivable, said Phillipe Ubaghs, director of sales and marketing for the casual furniture division of Bemis Manufacturing Co. of Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Ubaghs expects Bemis Manufacturing to do well against newcomers Sunbeam-Oster and Marley because Bemis is the last large producer that helped develop the U.S. market and remained in it.
Marley and Syratech, based in East Boston, separately announced the purchase agreement March 28 and said they expect to complete it by April 18.
Syroco has injection molding plants in Syracuse, N.Y.; Siloam Springs, Ark.; and Corona, Calif.
E. Merle Randolph, Syratech chief financial officer, said Syroco has 40-50 injection presses at its three plants.
Last year, Syroco bought outdoor furniture producer Omni Products International Inc. of Richmond, Va., and moved most of Omni's extruded PVC and metal furniture operations to Siloam Springs. It kept a small Omni aluminum furniture plant open in Costa Rica.
Syroco injection molds furniture from polypropylene. In addition to casual furniture, it also sold about $13.5 million worth of plastic accessories such as wall decorations last year.
Syratech Chairman Leonard Florence said his firm is satisfied with Syroco's financial results, but the parent company chose to focus instead on its table-top and giftware businesses, neither of which uses plastics.
Marley has expanded its plastics operations through internal growth and acquisitions to the point where they represented 71 percent of the firm's operating profit of $54.8 million (US$87.7 million) in 1994.
Last year Marley's plastic building supplies sales were about $311.6 million (US$498.6 million), and its auto parts sales about $82.2 million (US$131.5 million), Whiley said. Its 1994 sales for continuing operations totaled $661.5 million (US$ 1.06 billion).
``The acquisition is a significant step in Marley's strategy of developing further its plastics processing interests,'' Marley Chairman George Russell said in a news release.
Its U.S. plastics subsidiary is Marley Mouldings Inc. of Marion, Va., a producer of extruded plastic foam moldings called D.G. Mouldings before Marley bought it in 1990.
The firm's products include extruded PVC foam moldings for window sashes. Whiley said Marley has no plan to merge Syroco with Marley Mouldings.
Marley plans to retain Syroco's John Fravel, chief executive officer; Raymond Carrock, chief financial officer; and Norbert Lyons, sales and marketing vice president.
Whiley said the Syroco management team and Marley's own experience in mass merchandising and other distribution networks will help it enter the furniture market.
In the past five years, Marley also has acquired the following plastics businesses: two plumbing, molding and flooring operations in New Zealand; auto parts producer KKF Karl Fels GmbH of Germany; and early this year,a majority interest in extruded PVC molding firm Gemenc-Plast of Hungary.
While it boosted its plastics businesses, Marley recently divested some of its concrete building products, bricks and chimney tile operations. It bought other heavy building supplies businesses and plans to remain active in such markets in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.
The company will finance the Syroco buy through a share issue on the London stock exchange and through bank lending.