Private equity Edgewater Capital Partners sees growth potential in existing and new business for a high-tech reinforcements company it acquired on Nov. 30.
Edgewater bought Fiber Materials Inc., a producer of exotic fiber reinforcements for composites, based in Biddeford, Maine, for undisclosed terms. Edgewater bought the business from GrafTech International Holdings Ltd., a portfolio company of Brookfield Asset Management.
“We really like their stable customer base in defense and aerospace and a lot of upside potential in new markets in industrial and commercial,” said Pete Ostergard, an Edgewater principal, and now a board member of Fiber Materials, in a phone interview.
Ostergard said Fiber Materials has been supplying defense and aerospace applications for about 20 years. Customers in those markets often have long product lifetimes and offer opportunities “to drill down” into their new uses for high-strength and temperature-resistant composites. End-uses are typically components for rocket motors, missile nose tips, industrial insulation and friction hardware. Advanced composites are often mission-critical materials requiring high thermal stability in extreme environments, sometimes at 3,000° F, as well as dimensional strength and light weight.
The company's materials can be found on the surface of Mars, at the National Air and Space Museum, and in industrial furnaces.
FMI is on the thermal protection of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, which protected the rover during is entry into the Martian atmosphere.
It has been selected as a supplier to NASA's Orion program, which aims to send people to Mars.
“As one of very few U.S.-based 3-D carbon composite manufacturers, we believe [Fiber Materials] is ideally positioned to seize on the accelerating growth in the number of applications requiring these unique capabilities,” Ostergard explained. “[Fiber Materials] has developed an impeccable reputation with its industry-leading customer base for providing the highest quality and performing materials.”
Fiber Materials' product lines include a range of carbon fiber and graphite composites, many arrayed in 3-D configurations, carbon-ceramic matrices, other advanced polymer matrices and related adhesives.
Ostergard said most of Fiber Materials' sales have been in supplying reinforcing matrices but the company is developing more products with polymer pre-impregnated into the matrices which should lead to new business in industrial and commercial markets.
Fiber Materials, established in 1969, has annual sales of about $25 million and 150 employees at two facilities in Biddeford.
Fiber Materials is not a natural fit to Edgewater's portfolio, which includes specialty chemical companies, so it currently is a stand-alone business in the equity's stable. But the Cleveland company will look for add-on acquisitions, Ostergard noted.