Catching up quickly to the competition in the intermediate bulk container market, German-owned Mauser-Werke GmbH & Co. KG has agreed to buy an Italian rival that recently expanded to the United States.
Mauser, based in Bruhl, Germany, signed an agreement Sept. 7 with Mamor SpA of Grezzago, Italy. The deal will give Mauser a larger toehold in manufacturing the blow molded, enclosed containers, which are used to hold chemicals and other industrial materials.
Like Mauser, Mamor makes plastic drums and smaller containers, although they represent a relatively minor segment of the Italian company's business, Mauser Chief Executive Officer Stefan Mueller-Arends said in a Sept. 9 telephone interview. The draw for Mauser was the IBC capacity of Mamor, one of southern Europe's largest producers, Mueller-Arends said.
Mauser expanded rapidly into that market in September 2003, when the company bought the blow molding assets of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Hoover Materials Handling Group Inc. Before that buy, Mauser had owned only one plastic container plant in North America; it gained four more when it bought the Hoover assets.
While the Hoover purchase included blow molded drums and IBCs, the IBC end grew faster than the company expected, Mueller-Arends said.
Mamor specializes in some of the valves and tubing that make those containers more of a custom product, Mueller-Arends said.
``We developed our IBC product line later than [other competitors],'' Mueller-Arends said. ``All of a sudden, it was marching very strongly forward and we gained market share in that niche. We had to develop value and climb the whole learning curve there. We asked ourselves, why we shouldn't buy somebody that already has the technology and know-how?''
Mamor came onto Mauser's radar screen a few years ago when Mamor expanded north of the Alps by opening a plant in Staffanstorp, Germany.
Mamor is owned by the Maschio family, which started the company about 30 years ago, Mueller-Arends said. Company patriarch Pietro Maschio was interested in talking to Mauser in an effort to help Mamor continue its growth, Mueller-Arends said.
The Maschio family already had built Mamor into a powerhouse, with much of the expansion coming during the past half-decade. In Europe, the company has three blow molding plants in France, three in Italy and one in Germany. In the United States, Mamor opened a 63,000-square-foot site in Hebron, Ky., in early 2003.
When it launched, officials said the site had the capacity to produce 100,000 of the high density polyethylene containers annually. The Hebron plant recently installed its second Kautex accumulator-head machine, Mueller- Arends said.
Mamor also had its eye on opening several more U.S. plants, a decision that will lie in Mauser's hands once the sale is completed.
Mauser officials also must decide what to do with the Hebron facility, Mueller-Arends said. The Hoover deal gave the company several other plants in the same region. Mauser must consider whether to consolidate equipment or facilities, he said.
European regulators still need to approve the deal, which should be completed by early December, Mueller-Arends said. The sale, for undisclosed terms, will boost Mauser's annual sales by 120 million euros ($146 million), he said. Without Mamor, Mauser expects to record sales of about 320 million euros ($390 million) this year, he added.
Mauser also is looking at making a smaller acquisition in the United States by the end of the year that would add $60 million in sales, Mueller-Arends said. He declined to discuss details of the expected acquisition, except to say that it does not involve IBCs.
One condition of the Mamor sale is that some of the family members stay on with Mauser. Stefania Maschio, daughter of the company founder, will head Mauser's global sales operation, Mueller-Arends said. She plans to spend a lot of time in the United States looking at growth opportunities, he added. In addition, Pietro Maschio is to stay for several years as a consultant.
``This is operationally a merger, not an acquisition, and we expect to learn a great deal from them,'' Mueller-Arends said.
Mauser may open a blow molding plant near Houston, potentially a strong market for chemical containers, he said.
The company also has formed 50-50 joint ventures with equipment licensees in Asia that will give Mauser three plants there. The company has started new facilities in Mumbai, India, and Shanghai, China. Next summer, Mauser plans to open a site in Malaysia that will be run, like the two others in Asia, by its partners, Mueller-Arends said.
``Regarding [Asian] cultures, we don't have the managerial resources ourselves to go there [alone],'' he said.
With the deal, Mauser will come closer in size to that of its main global competitors - including Schutz Container Systems Inc. and Greif Inc. - in the IBC and blow molded industrial drum business.
The Mamor deal will add about 300 people to Mauser's total of 1,300 employees worldwide. By the end of next year, the company expects its employment total to top 1,900, Mueller-Arends said.