DETROIT - McKechnie plc, in a move to keep pace with globalization of the automotive industry, announced Jan. 16 that it acquired wheel-trim supplier Thompson International Inc. of Troy, Mich., for $65 million. McKechnie, based in Walsall, England, said it is paying $42.8 million for the Thompson business and another $7.6 million for property, and will assume $14.6 million in debt. The Thompson unit will be called McKechnie Vehicle Components USA Inc.
In recent months, Thompson had been talking to various European suppliers about a partnership or business alliance that would allow it to broaden its reach outside the United States, said President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Doyle.
During that search, Thompson made contact with McKechnie, which was eager to expand in the United States. ``They really had the same need, but from an opposite direction,'' Doyle said.
McKechnie made an offer and Thompson owners agreed to the acquisition. Privately held Thompson was formed through a leveraged buyout of an ITT Corp. metal trim business in 1989 and the acquisition of a plastics trim business from Masco Industries Inc. in 1991.
Thompson, employing nearly 500, supplies metal and plastic wheel trim to the Big Three and transplant automakers. It has a metal trim plant in Newberry, S.C., and a facility in Nicholasville, Ky., for assembly, painting and injection molding.
Thompson had sales of $73 million in the year ended March 31. About 46 percent of sales were related to plastics products and the remainder to metal.
While auto sales have softened in the past year, Thompson is ``growing and gaining market share,'' Doyle said.
Plastic wheel trim, with its weight and cost advantages, has made inroads into what primarily was a metal application. But Thompson is developing metal products and some plastic-metal hybrids. Now that it is part of McKechnie, Thompson expects to speed product development.
``The plastic side is growing faster than the metal side,'' Doyle said. ``But we've been working very hard to reinvent metal trim.''