Negri Bossi SpA, which recently took over two Italian makers of small injection presses, now has its sights set firmly on a purchase that would move it into larger-tonnage machines.
With that country's crowded injection press business ripe for consolidation, Negri Bossi of Cologno Monzese, Italy, is eyeing local firms with names for building machines above its own current limit of 1,500 tons, said Francesco Baldinelli, vice president and managing director.
``We have no experience from 2,000 tons upwards in the market. That's another world,'' he said at Interplas, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 in Birmingham. One possible takeover target, he said, is Brescia, Italy-based Italtech SpA, which is part of Comau, an industrial machinery and automation group in Turin, Italy, that is owned by Fiat SpA.
``Italtech could be a possibility. It would be a perfect target for us in terms of [machine] size. Italtech has years of a presence in the bigger-machine area. It's a well-known brand name,'' said Baldinelli.
Italtech sales and marketing director Giuliano Boffi said Italtech recently had discussed a possible merger with Negri Bossi but that Comau decided it does not want to sell its plastics machinery arm right now, for any price.
At Brescia, Italtech has capacity to make injection presses from about 100-9,920 tons, but it is looking at making higher-tonnage machines, Boffi said. The firm employs 150 and has annual sales of $50 million, he said. Its business extends into Europe, the United States, Asia and Latin America.
Baldinelli did not dismiss the suggestion of another possible big-machine partner for Negri Bossi: MIR SpA, also of Brescia.
``We are open to any type of proposal,'' he said.
However, Negri Bossi will take its time, with no firm decision on a specific move into bigger machines until later next year, he said. First, the firm needs to digest several recent deals.
In November, Negri Bossi bought a 70 percent stake in specialized injection press maker Oima SpA of Treviso, Italy. In April, Negri Bossi bought a 70 percent stake in another firm, BM Biraghi SpA of Monza, Italy.
In February, Negri Bossi itself was the takeover target when compression molding machine supplier Sacmi Imola Scrl of Imola, Italy, bought a 60 percent stake.
Integration of its three businesses is not an easy task. The company is keen not to lose the market and customer base built up over the years by Oima and BMB.
``We have to tread very carefully,'' Baldinelli said. ``It's easy to kill them or give their customers to some other competitor.''
However, as far as electric presses are concerned, there is a case for sharing the Negri Bossi technology across the group.
Negri Bossi is determined to sell its all-electric Elma series to the general market, not just molding niches, and the company is equally sure it will not compromise on the machine's price.
``Our strategy is very easy and very humble,'' Baldinelli said. ``We intend the electric machine can be competitive with our hydraulic [machine]. Period. This will be offered to 80 percent of the general market.''
Consolidation is crucial in the Italian injection press market in order to compete with German firms, Baldinelli said. He pointed out the mutual benefit in terms of scale and efficiency to be gained if Negri Bossi merges with some of Italy's 10 or so small injection press manufacturers.
The company expects to post 2002 sales of about 145 million euros ($142 million).