Acquisition-hungry toolmaker Wentworth Technologies Co. Ltd. has made perhaps its boldest purchase to date by buying most of the assets of Electra Form Inc., a struggling maker of injection molds for PET bottle preforms and custom products. The March 8 deal gives Wentworth capability to make tools for both the one- and two-step PET packaging processes, said Walter Kuskowski, Wentworth president and chief executive officer.
Wentworth of Mississauga, Ontario, makes blow molds in the United States and Canada.
"As far as I know, we will be the only toolmaker offering [molds] for all PET processes," Kuskowski said March 13 by telephone.
Wentworth's new preform tooling operations, renamed Electra Form Industries Inc., will go head-to-head with several large machinery companies.
Equipment supplier Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, is considered the top producer worldwide of preform molds, said several sources.
Electra now claims to be the largest independent producer of PET preform molds globally, Kuskowski said. "We're the only pure toolmaker in [PET preforms]," he said.
Vandalia, Ohio-based Electra has a 20-year history and a prominent name, but has suffered recent financial distress. It entered court-ordered receivership Feb. 3 with about $7 million in debt and was told to sell off its assets.
The firm had diversified into new areas that did not pan out in profit, said Brent Mayfield, Electra sales and marketing vice president.
Also, Electra's founder and president died in 1998, exacerbating the problems, Mayfield said.
Recently, Electra was ordered not to take new business until a buyer was found. Staff had been winnowed from more than 100 to 35, Mayfield said.
Wentworth plans to rehire employees gradually, Kuskowski said.
Electra recorded annual sales last year of more than $15 million, he said. Wentworth is striving to increase that total to at least $25 million to $30 million, numbers that had been recorded by Electra Form before its troubles.
Wentworth did not disclose the purchase price for its portions of Electra.
Electra still is looking for a buyer for its RSB blow molding machine operations, Mayfield said. The adjacent machine-building facility in Vandalia is for sale.
Preform design, mold testing and development labs will be moved to Electra's main, 65,000-square-foot plant, Kuskowski said.
Wentworth will merge Electra Form's sales and service operations in Singapore with Wentworth's offices in Asia. Electra Form preforms also will be sold and serviced from Wentworth plants in Poland and England.
Wentworth steadily has built an empire in blow molds through acquisition.
In November, it bought a Kansas City, Mo., plant from Owens-Brockway, and a Mansfield Woodhouse, England-based mold shop in September.
In traditional blow molds alone, Wentworth expects to record sales of about US$40 million this year, Kuskowski said. The company also makes extrusion blow molds, injection molds and thermoformed parts.
Combined, Wentworth's sales will exceed the US$100 million mark this year, Kuskowski said.