DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Dec. 12, 3:35 p.m. EST) — The biggest news about Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG during K 2001 was that there was no news — giving the six MPM units their first respite after a three-month soap opera over their future ownership.
Now that the world's largest plastics equipment maker remains safely under the wing of Siemens AG, the question at K swung to: Who is running the show? The answer: a four-man board of directors, with overall operational duties held by the top executives of MPM units that make Krauss-Maffei and Demag Ergotech machines.
K 2001 ran Oct. 25 through Nov. 1. Just a few weeks before the show started in Dusseldorf, MPM's owner Siemens AG and the suitor, the London equity group of Apax Partners & Co. Ventures Ltd., called off the deal just before it closed. The formal announcement Oct. 8 ended weeks of news reports that said Apax wanted a lower price and got cold feet — as the global machinery market deteriorated.
After insisting that the deal would go through, Siemens agreed to end it, but blamed Apax for running into problems with financing.
So for now, the chaos is over. Siemens retains ownership of MPM and its units that manufacture equipment under brands of Krauss-Maffei, Van Dorn Demag, Netstal, Demag Ergotech, Ber-storff and Billion. MPM has about a 20 percent global market share for injection molding machines, according to machinery leaders surveyed at K 2001.
Now Siemens is saying it wants to hold onto MPM for awhile.
“That is logical. Why would they want to sell in such a market situation?” said Helmar Franz, managing director of Demag Ergotech GmbH in Schwaig, Germany.
The two MPM board members in charge of operations are Franz and Wilhelm SchrÃ¶der, chairman of the managing board at MPM's largest member company, Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH of Munich.
The two other board members are Gerhart Becker, MPM's chief financial officer, and Hennang Scheele, who handles personnel matters for the 6,800-employee group.
SchrÃ¶der said MPM is more comfortable in the hands of Siemens, an industrial group, instead of the investment firm Apax. “We wouldn't be glad for a financial investor for the next few years,” he said. “We would not like to be held by a purely financial investor.” SchrÃ¶der also raised the possibility that MPM could be spun off through an initial public offering.
“Siemens is waiting for a better moment to sell this group of companies, to make a better dollar,” SchrÃ¶der said.
Wolfgang Vogl resigned his position as MPM chairman in July, after he disagreed with the proposed quick sale of Netstal Maschinen AG to Swiss industrialist Christoph Blocher. Vogl wanted to keep all six companies together.
When the Apax deal fizzled, so did the Netstal sale — although Blocher has signaled that he still wants to purchase Netstal, this time directly from Siemens.
The back-and-forth ownership is nothing new at Netstal, said Dieter Klug, the unit's president and chief executive. It goes back well before the failed Apax deal. Krauss-Maffei bought the company in NÃ¤fels, Switzerland, years ago. Mannesmann AG started buying KM shares in 1989, steadily boosting its stake full ownership in 1996.
In Dusseldorf, Klug gave an enigmatic accounting of Netstal's mother companies, drawing chuckles at a press breakfast. “We had a third and fourth one, a fifth one,” he said. “Sometimes we had two mothers at the same time. Then we went to the fifth one. Now we went back to the fourth one.”
Klug quipped: “What you have learned about Darwin failed in our case.”