Cookson Specialty Molding Group, which already owns pallet molder Loudon Plastics Inc., announced March 14 it has purchased another pallet maker, Engi-neered Polymers Corp., for $87 million. Loudon, based in Latham, N.Y., and Engineered Polymers of Mora, Minn., specialize in making pallets by structural foam molding polyethylene. The companies make both proprietary and custom-made pallets. They also make other products such as totes, shipping crates and custom-molded products.
®¯Cookson Specialty Molding is a unit of Cookson Group plc, a London conglomerate with 1995 sales of about $2.5 billion. Cookson bought Engineered Polymers from Harbour Group Ltd., a St. Louis holding company.
Dom DeMichele, chief executive officer of Cookson Specialty Molding Group, said officials expect 1996 sales of Engineered Polymers and Loudon Plastics will be about $100 million. That includes all products - not just pallets.
He declined to break out pallet sales data.
Although industrywide data for plastic pallets is scarce, Cookson believes the U.S. market is growing between 30-40 percent a year. Most plastic pallets are made by structural foam molding, thermoforming or regular injection molding.
DeMichele said sales and profit could double at the pallet operations during the next three years. He said Cookson's ``best guess'' shows the overall U.S. market for plastic pallets was $150 million in 1995.
Cookson Specialty Molding's reach in pallets now extends beyond U.S. borders. In November, Loudon opened a pallet plant in Chelmsford, England. That plant is equipped with a 750-ton structural foam machine - the first Uniloy-Springfield machine from Johnson Controls Inc. designed to meet European Community standards.
Loudon also operates plants in Lawrenceville, Ga., and its Latham headquarters.
DeMichele said most European plastic pallets are made by regular injection molding. Most U.S. plastic pallets are made by the low-pressure structural foam molding process, or by thermoforming, he said.
Engineered Polymers was one of the pioneers of structural foam pallets, turning out its Structo-cell pallets in the late 1960s when it was owned by Amoco Chemical Co.
In the mid-1980s, Amoco sold the molder to Sheller-Globe Corp., which sold to Harbour Group in 1990, according to William Hassel, president of Engineered Polymers.
For calendar-year 1995, Engi-neered Polymers had sales of more than $67 million. The company does structural foam, insert molding, regular injection molding, gas-assisted injection molding and gas counter-pressure molding.
Loudon's Nestable Vers-Pal last year won approval from the Department of Agriculture for use in federally inspected meat and poultry plants.
London-based Cookson formed its Specialty Molding Group in 1994 from six subsidiary companies with six plants and 10 distribution centers. After the acquisition of Engineered Polymers, the group has sales of more than $300 million from 11 plants in the United States, Canada and England, and 17 distribution centers North America and Europe. DeMichele said Cookson is looking to expand into South America and Asia.
Harbour Group, the seller of Engineered Polymers, invested a significant amount of money on new equipment and expansions at the molder, said Sam Fox, chairman and chief executive officer of Harbour.