Profile extruder and PVC window manufacturer Epwin Group plc is returning to private ownership after a 44.4 million ($72 million) management buyout led by Jim Rawson, its founding chairman and chief executive officer. The firm is seeking acquisitions candidates, but in the short term expects to improve efficiency and introduce cost controls.
The Cheltenham, England-based company comprises 27 separate businesses in Britain that extrude profiles, recycle and compound PVC, and fabricate PVC windows, conservatory roofing and building components.
Rawson founded the company in 1976 and floated it on the stock market 11 years later.
Rawson had held 32 percent of Epwin's shares. He and two executive directors — operations chief Richard Cox and finance director Paul Hazel — decided to buy the firm because they did not believe its share price reflected its underlying strength and major progress in boosting sales and profit.
The executives argued that as a public company it would be hard to raise cash for future growth, particularly to pursue substantial acquisitions.
The buyout group first approached the board of directors in August. Shareholders approved the plan this month, and the company will be delisted from the London Stock Exchange on Jan. 26.
"Whilst I am confident that the group can continue to progress as a quoted company, it currently gains limited benefit from being listed," said Doug Rogers, who had been the firm's independent director.
Epwin, which employed 1,681 at the end of 1998, reported pretax profit up 13 percent to 6.8 million ($11 million). Its 1998 sales were up almost 20 percent to 108 million ($176 million).
The group gradually has diversified away from its core windows business. In 1998 it had completed two acquisitions: In May it paid $2.24 million to buy PVC windows producer Kwest Corp. Ltd. of Paignton, England, from receivers, and in July it bought PVC telecommunications and building products maker Bendex Plastics Ltd. of Warrington, England, for $7.3 million.
Epwin renamed the Paignton firm Kwest Ltd., and restructured the business, cutting 60 jobs.
According to the company, it has been squeezed in recent months by increases in PVC prices and tight competition in its chief markets.