DETROIT — Magna International Inc. has elbowed its way deeper into European automotive parts production by agreeing to buy the plastics division of one of that continent's major suppliers.
The Markham, Ontario-based firm signed a letter of intent Sept. 6 to buy the Plastics Products Division of Ymos AG of Obertshausen, Germany, for $101 million. The transaction includes four plastics processing plants, three in Germany and one in Belgium.
The sale is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, pending regulatory approval, said Ymos spokesman Peter Ruecker.
The deal would vault Magna into the ranks of a full-service interior and exterior parts supplier in Europe, said C. Dennis Bausch, Magna executive vice president for marketing and planning. While Magna has 41 European plants and 8,400 employees there, it was missing a few interior and exterior pieces, Bausch said.
``The [Ymos] sale will help fill out our product mix there so we can become more of a systems supplier,'' Bausch said before a Sept. 10 speech at a meeting of the Sales & Marketing Executives of Detroit.
``That helps us better serve our customers as they shift to Europe.''
Bausch added that the company might purchase one more European supplier and is looking to Latin America for further acquisitions.
That possibility was echoed by equity analyst Gregory Misztela, who said he expects Magna to continue to expand worldwide.
``This company is on a mission to become one of the major global players in the industry. They have enormous financial resources and are opportunity-driven to acquire companies that offer a good strategic fit,'' said Misztela of Griffiths McBurney & Partners of Toronto.
Other large suppliers, including Southfield, Mich.-based Lear Corp. and Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., have major interior parts operations in Europe.
The Ymos facilities make injection molded instrument panels, bumper systems and interior and exterior plastic trim. The unit recorded 1996 sales of $182 million.
The firm, which uses polypropylene and engineering resins, won more than $60 million in contracts during 1996. Among the carmakers it supplies are Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Adam Opel, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Ymos is a division of Brussels, Belgium-based Cockerill Sambre SA, a maker of steel parts. Ymos also includes divisions that make automotive door panels and lock systems. Those two groups are not for sale, Ruecker said.
``We decided to sell our plastics division for strategic reasons,'' Ruecker said. ``It is not part of our core products, which use more metal than plastics.''
The Ymos plastics parts plants, which employ 1,500, are in Obertshausen, Straubing and Eder Oberstein, Germany, and near Brussels, Belgium, Ruecker said. Square-footage figures and the number of injection presses were unavailable.
In May, Magna bought seat supplier Tricom Group Holdings Ltd. of Nottingham, England, for about $72 million. At the time, company officials said the Tricom purchase could act as a catalyst for other acquisitions.
In the past nine months, the supplier also purchased interiors supplier Georg Naher GmbH of Kaiserslautern, Germany, and bumper systems maker Caradon Rolinx plc of London.
In late August, Magna also bought a 70 percent interest in injection molder Moldes Para Plastico Ayareb SA de CV of Cuautitl n, Mexico. The company's Decoma Exterior Systems group will operate the Ayareb plant.
Magna recorded $5.85 billion in 1996 worldwide sales. Of that, European sales accounted for $1.5 billion, up from $200 million four years ago.