BERLIN - Fresh off its acquisition of the giant Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG, Apax Partners & Co. Ventures Ltd. wants to talk to other major equipment manufacturers, as the financial investor looks for ways to build MPM into a powerhouse worthy of an initial public offering.
``I will try to meet every other competitor in the market,'' said Renate Kruemmer, an Apax managing director in Munich, Germany.
Apax, a London-based equity investment firm that manages a global, $10 billion portfolio, announced the MPM acquisition July 6. Kruemmer stressed that Apax officials need to complete administrative work before serious talks can begin with other machinery companies. European regulatory authorities also must approve the MPM purchase.
Apax already has sold an MPM holding, Netstal-Maschinen AG of Nafels, Switzerland, to Swiss billionaire Christoph Blocher.
Kruemmer said the main goal now will be to ``buy and build'' - that is, to make MPM bigger, financially stronger and even more global than it is today. In financial parlance, the strategy is to ``add value'' so MPM will be an attractive IPO investment in three or four years, she said.
Apax is sitting on a pile of cash. The firm claims to hold the largest European pool of private equity investment money, with $3.7 billion available for acquisitions in Europe.
``From our point of view, the options are wide,'' Kruemmer said in a July 11 telephone interview.
Apax used its money to outbid an estimated 20 other potential buyers and pick up MPM from Siemens AG. Terms have not been disclosed.
Meanwhile, one of MPM's unsuccessful suitors already has expressed interest in some sort of deal with Apax. Last week in Berlin, Helmut Eschwey, a top executive of SMS AG, said he is interested in forming a partnership with Apax and MPM. SMS, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, is known in plastics for its Battenfeld, American Maplan and Cincinnati Extrusion lines of processing machinery.
At the SMS pre-K 2001 news conference in Berlin, Eschwey made clear statements that SMS is pursuing a strategy of building through acquisitions. ``We buy; we don't sell,'' he told trade press reporters at the July 10 event.
Later, Eschwey told Plastics News that he plans to talk to Apax about working together.
``If they're looking for a strategic partner, or an industrial partner, SMS is certainly ready to talk and has a lot to offer,'' said Eschwey, chairman of SMS Plastics Technology. He also serves on the managing board of the parent company, SMS AG.
Contacted July 11, Apax's Kruemmer said she already has talked with Eschwey but only briefly. She again said that Apax wants to meet with every major competitor.
``That's for sure not limited to SMS,'' she said.
SMS is owned through a 50-50 arrangement between Munich-based Man AG and the Weiss family. In addition to its plastics machinery operations, SMS is a major global supplier of equipment for making steel.
Eschwey said SMS has long-term plans to remain a force in plastics machinery.
Eschwey said the SMS board remains interested in buying into MPM, but SMS would want to hold at least 51 percent of the machinery concern.
``Yes, we are talking, since we are still interested in the MPM companies. But we would not do it without a majority stake,'' Eschwey said.
Told about Eschwey's comments, Kruemmer shot down that suggestion. Apax, she said, would not sell a majority of the company.
``We would not think about giving up control,'' she said.