DUSSELDORF, GERMANY — More than a dozen separate buyers are interested in purchasing John Brown Plastics Machinery Inc., and most are willing to acquire all six of the company's divisions, according to a top official.
Chief Executive Officer Charles Buckley said both U.S. and European buyers are interested in a deal, and he expects a sale by the end of the year.
``The majority of the potential buyers that we are talking to so far would prefer all six [divisions]. Obviously, that is preferable,'' Buckley said in an Oct. 26 interview at the company's Brown Machine division booth at K'98 in Dusseldorf.
John Brown, based in South Attleboro, Mass., has five divisions based in the United States and one, Negri Bossi SpA, headquartered in Milan, Italy.
``What we had said, and what we would consider, is selling Negri Bossi separately from the five U.S. businesses,'' Buckley said.
Norwegian engineering conglomerate Kvaerner ASA of Oslo bought John Brown and its London-based parent, Trafalgar House plc, in 1996. But Kvaerner announced this summer that it plans to sell noncore subsidiaries, including John Brown, to reduce debt and narrow its business focus.
The plastics machinery group generates about $200 million in annual sales. Its units include:
Negri Bossi, a manufacturer of injection molding machines.
Brown Machine of Beaverton, Mich., which makes thermoforming machines.
Cumberland Engineering, a South Attleboro-based supplier of granulators and pelletizers. Cumberland also includes the John Brown Recycling Systems division, which makes complete lines for recycling post-consumer plastic.
Beringer of Marblehead, Mass., which makes screen changers, pelletizers and jet cleaners.
Epco, a remanufacturer of injection and blow molding machines based in Fremont, Ohio.
Leesona, a Burlington, N.C., maker of textile winders.
Buckley said the plastics machinery group has maintained strong growth in recent years despite a lack of expansion funds from its parent firms. He hopes a new owner will allow John Brown to expand in Asia and Latin America.
``We have had big growth. Take Negri Bossi — in 1993 we had a 7 percent share of the Italian market. Today, we have 17 percent there,'' Buckley said.
He added that forecasters in the United States predicted 5-6 percent growth in thermoforming machinery in 1998-99, but Brown Machine has seen sales grow 30 percent in the past year.