Key Plastics Inc. of Novi, Mich., has planted another flag on European soil by acquiring Clearplas France SA, the latest in a string of purchases for the growth-minded company.
The buyout of Clearplas, a maker of plastic interior and under-the-hood components, gives Key more of a toehold with French automakers and European-based Tier 1 suppliers. The purchase also marks at least the fifth plant acquired by Key this year.
The Michigan supplier paid about 85 million French francs ($13.5 million) to buy Clearplas from London-based Ascot Holdings plc, according to Ascot officials. The price included about FFr 66 million ($10.5 million) in cash upon the deal's completion and FFr 19 million ($3.03 million) to repay the group's bank notes.
Clearplas operates from a 70,000-square-foot plant in BellÃªme, France, that employs 160 people. The plant makes more than 600 automotive parts, including speaker grilles, sunroof components, air intakes and vents, gloveboxes and armrests for 24 vehicle models. The facility uses a variety of engineered resins that are injection molded on an unspecified number of presses.
The company had net assets of about FFr 37.8 million ($6.02 million) and profit of FFr 8.5 million ($1.35 million) in 1996, said officials with publicly held Ascot.
The British company had acquired Clearplas in August 1996 as part of its buyout of London-based Suter plc. Ascot, primarily involved in the chemical and refrigeration parts industries, put the company up for sale because it was not a core business, said John Edwards, Ascot's director of special operations.
The sale, expected to close by Sept. 1, gives Key another entree into the European market and broadens its customer base on that continent, said Len Griffin, Key president and chief operating officer. The plant serves French automakers, including Peugeot-Citroen SA and Renault SA, as well as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and several Tier 1 suppliers.
``To be a full-service supplier requires the company to have significant presence in both Europe and North America,'' Griffin said. ``We're still evaluating other opportunities to position ourselves in a way to best serve our customers.''
The company has made a major leap into the ranks of Tier 1 suppliers by shopping for plants on both continents. In March, Key purchased plastics interior parts plants in Port Huron and Chesterfield, Mich., and Chihuahua, Mexico, from Maumee, Ohio-based Aeroquip Corp.
Then, two weeks ago, Key bought T.D. Shea Manufacturing Inc. of Troy, Mich. That company, a maker of polycarbonate screen overlays for instrument panel cluster bezels and trim, has plants in Kendallville and Ashley, Ind.
Key also has been busy on the European continent. Last year, the supplier bought its first two European injection molding plants when it acquired Clearplas Ltd. of Coventry, England, and a share of automotive molder Materias Plasticas SA of Leiria, Portugal.
The Clearplas plant in England, also formerly owned by Suter, is unrelated to the France-based Clearplas facility.
Key, a privately held company, recorded sales of $252 million in 1996, an increase from $185 million the previous year. The supplier generated $207 million in North American injection molding sales last year, placing it 15th in Plastics News' 1997 ranking of top North American injection molders.
Griffin said the French plant gives Key state-of-the-art molding equipment and improves both its engineering and technical capabilities in Europe. The plant includes automated assembly cells, ultrasonic welding, pad printing, a paint line and hot foiling capabilities.