Portage Industries Corp. is pondering a sale of the company or a merger to strengthen its future prospects for growth. The Portage, Wis., sheet extruder and light-gauge thermoformer has retained Mesirow Financial Inc. of Chicago to review these and other opportunities, the firm announced Dec. 11.
``We feel our opportunities would be greatly enhanced with a strategic buyer,'' said Portage President Anthony Lisauskas, in a telephone interview. ``We haven't tried to do this before, although there was some interest from companies that approached us.''
Portage reported sales of $25.8 million and profit of $394,000 for its nine months ended Oct. 1, compared with sales and profit of $23.2 million and $508,000 a year earlier.
The company runs a sheet extrusion plant and a separate light-gauge thermoforming operation, both in Portage.
Spartech Plastics, North America's largest sheet extrusion company, is one possible candidate for buying Portage, according to Bradley Buechler, Spartech's president and chief executive officer.
``We certainly would be interested in a possible transaction with Portage,'' said Buechler from Spartech's Clayton, Mo., headquarters. ``But we are not in discussions with them now.''
Buechler said his firm has pursued expansion through acquisition, a strategy that vaulted its sheet and film sales from $184.1 million in 1993 to $276.7 million for the year ended Oct. 29, 1994. Of the 1994 total, sheet accounted for $262.9 million in sales.
``We believe the industry has gone through and will continue to go through consolidation,'' Buechler said.
Portage began reorganizing several years ago to break a four-year string of financial losses. Key to the plan was the sale in 1993 of its heavy-gauge thermoforming business to Greenwood Inc. of Danville, Ill. It has been profitable since 1993, said Lisauskas, who came on board in 1991 to turn the company around.
Portage was the 23rd largest sheet extruder in Plastics News' 1994 ranking with its $31.1 million in sales from seven extrusion lines. It also did about $1 million in sales from two light-gauge thermoforming lines.
Its approximately 175 nonunionized employees mainly process polystyrene, polyolefins and engineering resins for food, medical and electronics packaging, auto parts and various industrial components.
Buechler said Allstate Venture Capital owns about 20 percent of Portage's shares. Another major shareholder is private investor Madison Self. Portage has been a public company on the American Stock Exchange since 1987. Portage began extrusion in 1971 and diversified into thermoforming about five years ago.