A Dutch holding company has agreed to buy a majority stake in plastic and rubber parts supplier Eagle-Picher Industries Inc.
Cincinnati-based Eagle-Picher, which makes automotive plastic interior trim and fluid-handling systems, had been for sale since November 1996, when the company emerged from protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, said Wayne Wickens, president of Eagle-Picher's automotive group.
Eagle-Picher agreed Dec. 24 to sell its assets for an undisclosed price to a new company controlled by Granaria Holdings BV of The Hague, Netherlands. Minority owners include ABN Amro Bank NV, an investment banking firm in Zuidoost, the Netherlands, and several unnamed Eagle-Picher managers.
The sale is scheduled to be completed by late February, Wickens said.
Under the bankruptcy reorganization plan, the company now is owned by a trust representing about 150,000 people who had filed asbestos-related injury claims from insulation products sold from 1934-71.
The shareholders held common stock in the company worth about $225.7 million. The trustees wanted to sell Eagle-Picher to broaden the trust's investment portfolio, Wickens said.
``Eagle-Picher [management] had different objectives from that of the trust,'' Wickens said in a telephone interview. ``The trust administrators have a financial obligation to pay out claims to victims, and they wanted to use sale proceeds to invest in diverse vehicles to reduce risk. Our main interest is to grow the company.''
Several industry sources said that, since the bankruptcy filing, Eagle-Picher steadily had lost automotive market share due to unrenewed contracts. One source expected the company to face a difficult path to survive as an auto parts supplier.
Automotive sales account for about half the company's business, with the rest divided among the defense, aerospace and construction industries.
The company's new majority owner, Granaria, owns a stable of subsidiaries in such industries as food processing, industrial products and real estate. Eagle-Picher's diversity appealed to the holding company, said Granaria Chairman Joel Wyler.
After considering several other offers, Eagle-Picher chose Granaria partly because the new management will keep the 155-year-old company intact, Wickens said.
The re-formed company plans to grow in Europe and Asia, Wickens added.
Wyler and Eagle-Picher President Andries Ruijssenaars, who was born in the Netherlands, met six years ago at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Wickens said. When the bidding began for Eagle-Picher, Ruijssenaars remembered his friend.
Eagle-Picher operates an interior trim molding division in Kalkaska, Mich. The company also owns Eagle-Picher Fluid Systems Ltd., a maker of monolayer nylon tubing and vehicle fluid-systems assemblies based in Market Harborough, England.
The fluid-systems division also includes a U.S. operation in Brighton, Mich., and a joint venture in Puna, India, with New Delhi, India-based supplier Imperial Auto Industries Ltd. The division recorded about $32 million in 1996 sales.
In July, Eagle-Picher sold its plastics division, which makes parts from sheet molding compound and fiberglass-reinforced polyester, to Madison Heights, Mich.-based Cambridge Industries Inc. for $32.5 million.