Worthington Industries Inc. has sold the first piece of its plastics business, in what eventually figures to be the wholesale jettisoning of those operations.
The Columbus, Ohio-based company has exited London Industries Inc., a 10-year-old joint venture that injection molds plastic interior trim parts.
Worthington sold its 60 percent interest Nov. 6 to joint venture partner Nissen Chemitec of Niihama, Japan.
Nissen had held a 35 percent share in the project, which includes a 235,000-square-foot plant in London, Ohio.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The other 5 percent of the venture is owned by Sumitomo Corp., based in New York.
The sale was the initial step by Worthington to excise its plastics business and other noncore business units. In June, the company said it would divest three subsidiaries — Worthington Custom Plastics, Worthington Precision Metals and Buckeye Steel Castings — to concentrate on its steel processing and metals-related businesses.
The company is continuing to seek a single buyer for its entire plastics division, said investor relations manager Todd Rollins.
``The sale [of London Industries] is part of our strategy,'' Rollins said. ``This was our only joint venture in Worthington Custom Plastics. Now, we just will concentrate on selling the entire subsidiary.''
The plastics subsidiary includes automotive interior and exterior trim plants in Salem, Upper Sandusky and Mason, Ohio, plus six plants throughout the South that primarily mold parts for appliances and lawn and garden products.
In 1997, Worthington Custom Plastics placed 11th in Plastics News' listing of top North American injection molders, with 1996 sales of $325 million. The company employs 3,600.
The London Industries facility has 435 employees and operates 34 injection presses, Rollins said.
The plant primarily injection molds, vacuum forms and assembles interior parts for Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and other Japanese automakers doing business in North America. Those parts include pillars, door liners and other trim components.
The company has been selling parts of its other subsidiaries. On Nov. 3, Worthington Industries announced the sale of its precision metals unit and Dietrich Industries' Garage Door Division to Veritas Capital Fund LP of New York.
The firm also unloaded a small scrap recycling operation in August.
Worthington Industries recorded sales of $1.9 billion for fiscal 1997.
Since announcing the planned divestiture, the company has begun reporting financial results for Worthington Custom Plastics as discontinued operations.