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Strength in Consolidation

In his recent column, “Selling, Buying, and Merging Companies During a Recession” (Metal Finishing, Sept. 2009), my esteemed colleague Bert Sherwood outlined potential growth strategies for metal finishing companies looking to survive this “Great Recession.” I agree that one of the options he presented—merging—represents an ideal way to lower overhead while leveraging synergies to optimize operations and output.

As far as business strategies go, growth through merging or acquisition represents one of the most viable options for manufacturing-driven companies today. As it turns out, overall merger/acquisition activity has picked up over the last year, according to BusinessWeek magazine, which recently reported that the pace of “announced” global mergers and acquisitions is now almost double the lows seen earlier this year. Another significant revelation: North America accounts for $766 billion (or 36.4%) of the $2.1 trillion in deals made in 2009.1

Following is a smattering of recent examples within our very own industry: A pair of aluminum anodizers, EastWest DyeCon, Roanoke, Va., and Absolute Finish, Lewiston, Idaho, agree to join forces; DISA Group, provider of molding and casting technology, merged with Wheelabrator Group, whose forte is surface preparation technology; SERFILCO, a leader in filtration equipment and liquid-handling systems, agreed to purchase all assets of solvent vapor degreasing specialist Baron-Blakeslee Equipment, a division of Enviro Tech International; Technic Equipment, a global supplier of specialty chemicals and machinery, purchased select assets of Metfab Technologies, Inc., known for its capabilities in reel-to-reel electroplating and electropolishing equipment; Haviland Products, a leading formulator and manufacturer of decorative, functional and specialty coatings, acquired Wyandotte, Mich.–based Benchmark, Inc., a renown surface finishing chemistry manufacturer; Babylon, N.Y.–based Xiom Corp., a technology business offering delivery of plastic powder coatings at on-site locations, gobbled up 100% of the equity interests of Equisol, LLC, a West Conshohocken, Pa.– based equipment outfit specializing in water and wastewater treatment; and Benchmark Products, Inc., of Indianapolis, Ind., and New Surface Technologies, LLC, Bedford Ohio, who joined forces to form a new company, Asterion, LLC.

The justification behind many of these marriages is clear, with executives rattling off familiar objectives: “broaden our respective customer bases”; “provide users with combined world-class technologies and higher service levels”; “strengthen capabilities through combined knowledge and expertise”; and “create opportunities to grow more aggressively, both organically and through potential acquisitions in the future.” I’ll add another one of my own intended goals to that list: “dramatically improve the chances of the long-term survival of each company involved.”

Truth be told, merging might not be the best option for everyone. (Perhaps a “strategic alliance” is warranted in some cases?). But as far as pure supportive stats go, it’s hard to argue with Sherwood’s math when he says: “sometimes 1 + 1 = 2.4.”

REFERENCES
1. "Unmistakable Signs of Life in Worldwide M&A”, BusinessWeek, Dec. 7, 2009, pp 18–19.
 

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