Four years after it first planned to dispose of British plastic pipe and fittings molder Polypipe Group, IMI plc finally has sold the business to U.S. private equity firm Castle Harlan Inc. for $527 million.
The sale does not include Polypipe's money-losing British door and window profile operations - Premier Profiles Ltd. and Procell Plastics - which Birmingham, England-based IMI closed in June. The shutdown of the plants in Doncaster, England, led to around 180 job losses, according to IMI.
The disposal of Polypipe, which IMI bought in 1999 for $543 million, marks the final phase of a restructuring plan announced by the Birmingham engineering company in 2001.
IMI now will focus on the fluid controls and retail dispensing sectors.
Doncaster-based Polypipe has 22 production sites in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Poland, and in Guangzhou, China.
Its six divisions produce a range of construction and other products, from hot and cold water piping, ventilation ducts and bathroom taps to toilet seats and garden furniture.
Polypipe, formed in 1980 by former plumbing instructor Kevin McDonald and business partner Geoffrey Harrison, recorded an operating profit in 2004 of about £27 million ($49.5 million) on annual sales of £372 million ($381.9 million). The pipe maker employs about 2,900.
Castle Harlan of New York will run Polypipe as a separate business headed by David Hall, formerly managing director of Polypipe's civil construction division.
Hall, who will be chief executive officer, replaces Blair Illingworth, who decided to leave the firm, according to the U.S. buyer.
``There are significant opportunities for growth at Polypipe through greater focus on core businesses, more coordination between business units and new products, including those from China and other low cost sources,'' Howard D. Morgan, Castle Harlan senior managing director, said in a news release.
There is also scope for new growth in European markets and for ``possible complementary acquisitions,'' Morgan added.
Castle Harlan, founded in 1987, includes in its diverse portfolio the controlling interest in Associated Packaging Enterprises Inc., a Chadds Ford, Pa.-based thermoformer of crystallized PET packaging for the frozen-foods sector.