Habasit Belting LLC's wide-ranging reach is spreading.
The wholly owned subsidiary of Switzerland-based Habasit AG is involved in a flurry of expansion activities to increase and improve its polyurethane, plastic and rubber-coated belting operations.
The moves include:
* The acquisition of Summa Industries in a cash deal to expand its plastic belt segment significantly.
* Expansion of its Middletown, Conn., plant to 175,000 square feet from 125,000 square feet to handle a PU belt line introduced at NIBA, the Belting Association convention, held Sept. 16-20 in Palm Springs, Calif.
* The purchase of Rossi Motordattori SpA, an Italian maker of gearboxes and motors, for an undisclosed amount in 2005.
* Moving its plastic segment into a new, 50,000-square-foot plant in Suwanee, Ga., which frees up more space for its other operations, including rubber, at the firm's larger headquarters facility in the city.
It's been a busy year and a half for the firm, Bert Flieger, executive vice president of sales and marketing, said at the NIBA convention.
The company expanded its Middletown plant to handle its new family of thermoplastic PU timing belts, called HabaSync, aimed at the packaging, food and business machine markets, Flieger said. It also added two new open-ended timing belt machines at the site.
The HabaSync belts, made of TPU and high-strength steel or aramid cord, are used in conveying and linear movement applications, primarily where motion control, product placement, component positioning and synchronization are essential to optimum performance.
Manufactured in open-end lengths, the belts can be slit to width and cut to length to fit an exact size, Flieger said.
Habasit's Middletown facility, which operates under the name Habasit ABT Inc. and primarily produces seamless belts, also makes PU flat belts and rubber belt covers.
The urethane and rubber ends of the company's business are growing significantly, he noted, and the plastic segment is making big inroads.
The Summa transaction closed in mid-October, boosting the company's market share in the plastic belt segment, he said.
Under terms of the agreement, Habasit paid cash - $15 per share of Summa common stock - and assumed about $21 million in Summa's debt.
Torrance, Calif.-based Summa has become a subsidiary of Habasit, its management team will remain in place and its U.S. facilities will continue operating.
Summa has sites in California, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Canada.
Habasit, based in Reinach-Basel, Switzerland, intends to invest in Summa to improve operating efficiencies and customer service, according to Habasit Chairman Giovanni Volpi.
More moves planned
Plastic belts, some of which have rubber inserts, account for about 10 percent of Habasit's business, while rubber, PU and PVC belts make up the remaining 90 percent.
The rubber-fabric end has about $400 million in sales annually, has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past four years and remains the company's core business, according to Flieger.
But the modular plastic segment is growing at a faster rate in terms of percentage. It was the first of the firm's operations to move from its 160,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in Suwanee to the new plant.
For the time being, the plastic division will operate by itself at the new factory, which sits on 25 acres purchased by Habasit in late 2004. Down the road, the facility will be expanded to about 300,000 square feet and the remainder of the company's operations in Suwanee will move there.
The lightweight belting market has been strong and steady for Habasit.
``Even when the economy slowed down, we continued to invest heavily in new product development,'' Flieger said.
The company plans to work closely with distributors ``and provide them with strong sales, technology and customer support,'' which has paid off, he said.
Habasit's philosophy is to grow organically and through acquisitions.
``That's worked very well for us,'' Flieger said.