SMS Plastics Technology is studying Nextrom SA's extruder business, which has been up for sale since November, an SMS executive said.
Separately, Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc., an SMS unit that builds machines for film and sheet, would like to expand into thermoforming machines. As previously reported, Battenfeld Gloucester also is talking to Black Clawson Converting Machinery LLC about acquiring that supplier of extrusion coating and cast film lines.
Those developments, combined with SMS' publicly stated interest in the six-company Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG — or at least some part of MPM — and a picture emerges of SMS as hungry for acquisitions in plastics machinery.
That portrayal is accurate, said Helmut Eschwey, chairman of SMS Plastics Technology. Eschwey also is a member of the managing board of its parent, SMS AG in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Plastics machinery used to account for about one-third of SMS total sales. But that has fallen to about 22 percent as a result of dramatic, acquisition-driven growth in its steel mill-equipment side.
Now SMS wants to rebalance its portfolio between steel and plastics. SMS Plastics Technology generated $523.5 million of the SMS total of $2.4 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Eschwey said SMS wants plastics equipment again to reach at least one-third of total SMS sales. He said acquisitions are the only way to grow that quickly.
"I cannot do that through internal growth alone," Eschwey said.
SMS Plastics Technology made one acquisition in 2000, picking up Milacron Inc.'s extruder operation in Vienna, Austria. The business, renamed Cincinnati Extrusion GmbH, helped boost sales at the plastics group by 25 percent from the year before.
More acquisitions could be coming.
Black Clawson's chairman and owner, Carl Landegger, confirmed that Battenfeld Gloucester has expressed interest in buying his company in Fulton, N.Y. Landegger said officials of the two companies are scheduled to talk again at the end of February.
No deal has happened, Landegger said in a Jan. 31 telephone interview. Battenfeld Gloucester officials have declined to comment about Black Clawson.
Eschwey said SMS also may bid for Nextrom.
"We are looking into that," he said. SMS already owns about 5 percent of the Swiss extrusion systems supplier formerly known as Nokia-Maillefer.
Nextrom President Jouni Heinonen said his company is talking with a number of potential buyers, but he declined to identify them.
In November, Nextrom announced it wants to sell its pipe, film and cable equipment business to focus on machinery to make fiber optics. Up for sale are machines to make wire and cable, extrude polyethylene pipe and produce blown and cast film.
Meanwhile, in Gloucester, Mass., Battenfeld Gloucester has its eye on thermoforming machinery. No deals are in the works, said Phil Murphree, president and chief executive officer.
"One of the things that we're missing is the downstream equipment, so if we find the right partner or the right opportunity, we would love to expand into that downstream end of the sheet business," Murphree said.
This fall at K 2001, Battenfeld and its German sister company, extruder maker Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik GmbH, will show a jointly designed sheet line.
In other news, Battenfeld Gloucester soon will open a machine shop in Greenville, S.C. The plant, in a 30,000-square-foot, leased building, will do precision machining of small metal parts, Murphree said. He said another machining plant, in Newport, N.H., is running out of capacity.
SMS also is making news in injection molding machines. Eschwey said Battenfeld GmbH plans to roll out a general-purpose, all-electric press at the K show.
The U.S. unit, Battenfeld of America Inc., continues to decentralize by opening regional U.S. sales and service centers. Eschwey compares the United States to Europe.
"I would never sell to the European market just out of one office," he said.
In mid-2000, the company moved Thomas Lenz from its Brazilian operation to West Warwick, R.I., to become president of Battenfeld of America. The longtime president, Wolfgang Meyer, was going to run Battenfeld's new center in Michigan. But Meyer ended up leaving the company later in the year for a job in blow molding, at SIG Plastics Technologies (USA) Inc.
Another veteran salesman, Ed Matola, also left Battenfeld of America late last year. He had been vice president of sales and marketing. Matola now is national sales manager at MIR USA Corp., a unit of the Italian injection press builder MIR SpA.