In a move to expand its automotive base, Mark IV Industries Inc. has acquired Le Profil Industries Engine Systems Co., one of Europe's largest producers of welded plastic air-intake manifolds.
The acquisition, completed Oct. 2, includes three Le Profil plants in France that make thermoplastic manifolds, and cooling system parts from both thermoplastics and thermosets.
Mark IV, a publicly held company based in Amherst, N.Y., paid $60 million in cash to buy Le Profil, which was a subsidiary of Paris-based holding company Aries SA.
Le Profil, which has 400 employees, expects to record sales of $60 million to $70 million in 1997, said Mark IV Automotive President Kurt Johansson, based in Solvesborg, Sweden. The acquisition hands Mark IV new capabilities in air-intake systems that match well with the company's under-the-hood parts, he said.
``They're the market leaders in Europe in welded plastic manifold technology,'' said Johansson, which declined to offer market figures. ``We are planning a procedure to integrate (Le Profil's) products with that of our company. We are in tune with them, and that made the company very good for us from a synergy point of view.''
Mark IV has not devised specific plans to integrate the product lines yet, Johansson said. Other engine parts suppliers produce modular air-intake systems for both the European and North American markets.
Mark IV's automotive group primarily makes power transmission and accessory drive-system components, fuel-handing systems and filtration products. The division expects to record about $1.3 billion in worldwide sales during this fiscal year, Johansson said.
The acquisition will open up the French market for Mark IV and move the company into plastic parts, said equity analyst John Walthausen of C.L. King & Associates in New York. However, the purchase has other ramifications for the firm's long-term future.
``It gives them the ability to put together a broad-based automotive business,'' Walthausen said. ``They're also getting much more market focused, which could lead to an eventual [welded manifold] facility in North America.''
The acquisition includes a new, 170,000-square-foot plant in Orbey, France, that makes the vibration welded, two-piece manifolds from nylon and other thermoplastics. The plant, which has 200 employees, opened in September. The company moved its operations from a leased facility in Orbey and expanded manifold production.
Other Le Profil plants are in Fraize and Chateauroux, France. The 80,000-square-foot Fraize plant makes injection and blow molded cooling and power-steering-system reservoirs from high density polyethylene. The 50,000-square-foot Chateauroux plant uses injection and compression molding to create cooling-system housings from thermoset composites and other materials.
Equipment numbers and production volumes were not disclosed. Le Profil officials, who have a U.S. sales office in Birmingham, Mich., referred calls to Mark IV.
Le Profil, based in Orbey, does a majority of its business with French carmakers such as Peugeot-Citroen SA and Renault SA. The company also works with Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. in Europe.
Welded manifolds could be the most-coveted piece of the acquisition. Production of the welded parts is expected to grow in Europe from about 40 percent of the plastic manifold market last year to about 56 percent by the year 2001, said Joel Kopinsky, principal of Novi, Mich-based automotive consultants ITB Group Ltd. Meanwhile, production of aluminum manifolds is on the decline, Kopinsky said.
The acquisition has drawn the attention of competing under-the-hood parts makers such as Mann+Hummel GmbH of Ludwigsburg, Germany. While Le Profil is not huge by worldwide standards, the technology could make Mark IV a major player in air-intake systems, said Mann+Hummel spokeswoman Julie Morey at the company's Southfield, Mich., sales office.
Le Profil ``has money behind [it] now and a more-visible name,'' Morey said. ``A smaller fish has joined with a bigger fish. It could build momentum for Mark IV, and we're watching that closely.''
Mann+Hummel has begun making integrated air-intake systems for North American vehicles produced by Mercedes-Benz AG and Volkswagen AG. Siemens Automotive in Auburn Hills, Mich., also announced it will open a plant in Fort Shawnee, Ohio, to make integrated air-fuel module assemblies.
Mark IV Automotive has 26 plants worldwide and about 8,500 employees. Its parent company also makes industrial filtration and fluid-system products, under the Purolator and Dayco names, and other products. The company expects about $2.3 billion in 1997 sales.