Steel conglomerate Grupo Imsa SA de CV of Garza García, Mexico, is boosting its presence both in the plastics industry and in the United States.
Imsa on July 17 announced its Imsatec division bought Glasteel Tennessee Inc. from Alpha Corp. of Collierville, Tenn., for $9 million. Alpha is a privately held company that co-owns Alpha/ Owens-Corning, one of the largest unsaturated polyester producers in North America.
Glasteel Tennessee — not to be confused with another Alpha division, Glasteel Industrial Laminates — makes fiberglass-reinforced panels for a variety of industries. The ``other'' Glasteel, which makes laminated circuit boards, will remain with Alpha, according to John W. Griggs, chief financial officer of Alpha.
``We want to concentrate on our core businesses,'' which are Glasteel Industrial Laminates and AOC, Griggs said.
Glasteel Tennessee's factory in Collierville and four distribution centers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas will be added to Grupo Imsa's four other U.S. plants.
Imsatec's Stabilit and Stabilit Argentina FRP-panel subsidiaries reported combined sales of $38 million in 1996. The addition of Glasteel would boost annual sales of Imsatec's fiberglass panels businesses to $65 million, according to an Imsa news release. Alpha officials declined to confirm sales figures.
Earlier this year, securities analysts predicted Imsa would seek acquisitions for Imsatec, saying the division's existing plants were operating at full capacity.
Cross-border acquisition excursions by Mexican companies could become a new, if limited, trend in the composites industry, according to Joe McDermott, president of consulting firm Composites Services Inc. of Cresskill, N.J.
``There's no question there is going to be more integration across the borders,'' McDermott said, noting most activity will be in the fragmented, low-tech, ``commodity'' products like panels for construction.
``This particular product, continuous linear panels, lends itself to that kind of transaction,'' he said. ``Imsa is familiar with that product, and is established in that segment. That makes it easier than if the target were a precision molding application with high-quality requirements for the automotive industry, for example.''
Alpha's decision to sell its panels division ``continues a long-standing trend of resin suppliers to shed any downstream production,'' McDermott said.
But U.S. companies, including Alpha and its GIL division, are likely to keep the high-tech composites applications, McDermott said.
Grupo Imsa shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The group reported 1996 sales of 8.99 billion pesos ($1.18 billion).