Thermofil Inc., one of the largest polypropylene compounders in the United States, has been sold to Asahi Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. of Tokyo for $92 million. Nippon Steel Chemical Co. Ltd., Thermofil's Tokyo-based former parent, is selling Thermofil compounding plants in Fowlerville, Mich.; Hampshire, England; and Bouches-du-Rhone, France — as well as a recycling plant in Dalton, Ga., and a sales office in Vercelli, Italy. Thermofil's corporate headquarters will move from Brighton, Mich., to Fowlerville later this year.
Thermofil's U.S. sites posted sales of about $56 million last year, while its European sales totaled about $49 million.
"Asahi has a $4 billion plastics and chemicals business in an $11 billion company, but they have very little presence in the U.S. and Europe," said Thermofil President Randy Rudisill. "Now we'll be part of a global compounding network with the benefit of an owner that's a major plastics player.
"This is a very positive move for Thermofil."
Thermofil compounds 30 different resins, but its biggest-volume product is glass-filled PP for the automotive industry. The company was founded in Brighton in 1967 and was purchased by Nippon Steel Chemical in 1989.
In August 1999, auto giant DaimlerChrysler Corp. named Thermofil as one of five PP compounders it wanted its parts suppliers to use.
Asahi produces a number of commodity and engineering resins, including high and low density polyethylene, ABS, acetal and nylon. It also makes polystyrene and polycarbonate through joint ventures with other producers.
Thermofil's Fowlerville plant, with annual capacity of 200 million pounds on five massive twin-screw extrusion lines, opened last year.
The firm opted to build the 100,000-square-foot, $25 million plant in Fowlerville after a March 1998 fire destroyed half of the Brighton plant.
In Europe, Thermofil produces more than 40 million pounds of compounds in England and more than 20 million pounds of compounds in France.
The sale is not expected to affect Thermofil's 120 U.S. employees or 170 European employees, and management is expected to remain, Rudisill said.
Thermofil has enjoyed volume growth of 10-15 percent in each of the past five years, even though its sales totals have fluctuated as prices for PP and other resins have bounced around, Rudisill said.
"We've got a very special material in glass-filled polypropylene," he said. "It's the most cost-effective engineered solution for more applications. A lot of the time we find ourselves helping our customers convert from nylon or other engineering resins."