Electronics, security systems and distribution firm Laird Group plc is negotiating to sell Laird Plastics Inc., a major U.S. plastic shapes and sheet distributor.
London-based Laird Group said it is in discussion with potential buyers. Distribution sector veterans believe Laird has narrowed the field to fewer than four companies, including both existing plastics distribution players and private equity investors.
Laird Group, which employs 5,300 overall with 1,300 in Asia and Eastern Europe, should be ready to announce an agreement by early September, said Mel Ettenson, editor of ``Global Plastics Letter,'' a Franklin, Mich.-based newsletter that covers the shapes/sheet distribution sector.
Ettenson does not think GE Polymershapes of Huntersville, N.C., is among the potential buyers. GE Polymershapes has 64 U.S. offices, plus 86 more in 16 countries.
In announcing plans to sell Laird Plastics, Laird Group Chief Executive Officer Peter Hill pointed to ``considerable progress'' made since 2001 in turning the division around to renewed sales growth and profitability. The business saw its first half 2004 operating profit rise 6 percent to £1.9 million ($3.47 million) and sales doubled, compared to the same period a year ago. In 2003, distribution sales reached £128 million ($233.9 million).
Laird Group expects to generate about $73 million from the sale, which it will redeploy in two other divisions: Laird Technologies Inc. of Delaware Water Gap, Pa., a producer of electromagnetic-interference shielding for the electronics sector and Laird Security Systems, a maker of building security and sealing products.
Laird expects to finalize a deal by Oct. 1.
Laird Plastics has 65 distribution centers across North America supplying a wide range of plastic shapes, sheet and other products to about 25,000 customers. The business employs 500.
Other plastics-related Laird Group subsidiaries include foam sealing products maker Amesbury Group Inc. in Amesbury, Mass.; Fastek Products Inc., an injection molder of plastic window components of Canton, S. D.; and Permacell Finesse Ltd., an extruder of PVC profiles in Witham, England.