Gartland Whalley and Barker plc, an investment group based in Halifax, England, has entered the U.S. color compounding market through its $11 million purchase of PolyTech South Inc. of Atlanta. PolyTech South, whose annual sales have climbed from $8.5 million in 1994 to $15.7 million in the fiscal year ended June 1999, provides color concentrates, masterbatches and additives for film extrusion coating and several plastic molding processes. Sales into the film and sheet market account for more than half of PolyTech's sales, although its injection molding and blow molding sales are growing, officials said.
Most of PolyTech's products are based on polyethylene, polypropylene or polystyrene. It also does some work in engineering resins.
The 13-year-old firm does not operate its own manufacturing plants; instead, it contracts with six to eight toll compounders throughout the United States.
"We were attracted to PolyTech because of its excellent turnaround times and technical expertise," said Patrick Coyne, corporate development director for GWB's U.S. subsidiary, GWB (USA) Inc. "They can produce special orders very quickly and have their own proprietary formulas."
PolyTech founder and President Steve Hart and his nine-person staff will remain with the new firm.
"We're committed to formulating solutions to problems in high-end applications, and we'll continue to do that," Hart said.
Hart added he had been approached by several other compounders and financial investors, but many of them wanted to combine PolyTech with businesses that he believed were poor fits for PolyTech's products and philosophy.
"A lot of growth in compounding has been by acquisitions, and companies find themselves having to put something through their plants to justify the business," he said. "But our growth has been steady and planned and will continue to be so."
The PolyTech business outside of other GWB acquisitions should be near the $25 million annual sales mark in four or five years, Hart said.
GWB specializes in acquiring industrial businesses, then building niche operations through new takeovers with the aim of taking the business public on the stock market within a couple of years.
The company was formed in 1989 by a team of senior managers from FKI Babcock plc, an international engineering company. GWB has taken five companies public since then.
Atlanta-based GWB (USA) Inc., formed in 1997, and already owns Iroquois Precision Components Inc. of Winsted, Conn., which includes three businesses specializing in largely metal-based products.
"We want to have a core group of boutique-style, high-end products," Coyne said. "Ideally, we'd make two or three acquisitions a year until we go public."
Coyne added that PolyTech will continue to do business with toll compounders even if GWB acquires color compounders with their own manufacturing sites.
Prior to the PolyTech deal, GWB's only other plastics venture was Windmill Extrusions Ltd., a profile extruder based in Ashbourne, England. That company is part of Cirqual plc, an Ashbourne-based firm focused on industrial components manufacturing.
PolyTech will form the cornerstone of new U.S. group, and GWB plans to acquire similar businesses.
The venture will be renamed PolyTeque and could expand to include such plastic products as engineering polymers and liquid color, according to company officials.