Waddington North America has sold the equipment assets of the former Hopple Plastics Inc., a longtime name in thermoforming history, to another pioneering thermoformer that is looking to grow.
New Concord, Ohio-based Fabri-Form Co. bought the company's thermoforming and extrusion machinery and has moved the equipment to its plant in Byesville, Ohio, said Brent McVay, principal of investment banking firm Cherry Tree Securities LLC of Minneapolis. Cherry Tree managed the transaction for Waddington.
Fabri-Form also has hired several managers with Waddington's general packaging group to work in Byesville, he added. Terms of the deal and the number of machines involved were not disclosed.
Waddington had owned Hopple since 1988. Hopple had changed its name to become Waddington's general packaging division, but still was known informally as Hopple.
Founder John Hopple long since had retired from the thermoforming company he founded in 1963, before several ownership changes. Hopple has been credited with helping to develop thin-gauge thermoforming at his Florence, Ky., company.
Waddington had been looking for a buyer for the operation, McVay said. Waddington, based in Covington, Ky., and owned by Chicago equity firm Code Hennessy & Simmons LLC, mainly focuses on food-service products, including plastic cups and cutlery.
The general packaging division produced thermoformed packaging and extruded rolls and sheet for consumer and industrial applications. Its products include trays for printer cartridges and thermoformed liners. The unit recorded sales of less than $10 million last year, according to several sources familiar with the operation.
Waddington plans to retain the Florence plant and use it for other purposes, McVay said. Executives with Waddington declined comment, and Fabri-Form President and Chief Executive Officer John Knight could not be reached before deadline.
Fabri-Form's history dates to 1943. It thermoforms custom components, specializing in transportation packaging, and it makes materials-handling systems. It has three plants. Fabri-Form recorded $30 million in sales last year, according to Plastics News figures.
The deal closed at the end of November but was not announced until Jan. 28, when equipment was moved from Florence, McVay said.
``It's a great opportunity for Fabri-Form to expand its business and continue to grow,'' McVay said. ``It's much easier to buy a company's equipment than to piecemeal a business together. [Hopple] already has the customer base that Fabri-Form could capitalize on to grow its business.''
McVay's firm works on middle-market acquisitions for firms with enterprise value of between $5 million and $100 million. Those deals, in thermoforming and elsewhere, are expected to pick up in 2004, he said. Consolidation among thermoformers could fuel some of that rise, he said.
``It's a very fragmented market,'' he said. ``All signs are indicating that middle-market companies are revising their options for exit strategies, and others are reviewing their budgets for [capital expenditures]. I think that [mergers and acquisitions] work is starting to turn a corner.''