Visteon pays Cerberus to take control of interiors unit

Company will focus on electronics, Asia

UPDATED: 5/2/14 10:30 am ET - adds background, details

DETROIT -- Visteon Corp. said it signed an agreement to transfer its global automotive interiors business to an affiliate of private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP.

Under the terms of the deal, Cerberus -- known most in the auto industry for its brief and unsuccessful ownership of Chrysler -- assumes about $20 million in pension liabilities of the business unit and Visteon will invest $95 million into the business under Cerberus.

Visteon has also agreed to provide $90 million in revolving credit to bridge the deal, which will be paid back by Cerberus, the one-time Ford parts unit said in a press release.

Visteon will remain in control of certain real estate assets of the unit in South America and Europe, worth about $35 million, it said.

The unit supplies automotive cockpit modules, instrument panels, door panels and floor panels from 15 plants and six engineering centers in Asia, Europe and South America.

The business is heavily focused in Europe and the collapse of that market in recent years decreased sales for the Visteon unit for several quarters. In the fourth quarter of last year, Visteon reported interiors revenue of $317 million, down $19 million from the same quarter in 2012. Visteon attributed $12 million of that decrease to lower production volumes in Europe.  

Revenue from the unit fell from $1.39 billion in 2012 to $1.26 billion in 2013. ​

"The transaction supports our previously announced intention to divest our interiors business and focus on our core thermal management and cockpit electronic ecosystems businesses, which enjoy market-leading positions in segments that are growing faster than the industry overall," Visteon CEO Timothy Leuliette said in the statement.

"We are pleased to be selling this interiors business to a well-capitalized, operationally focused investment firm with a track record for long-term value creation, where we think it will be an excellent fit."

Visteon also announced it completed its previously announced deal to sell its 50 percent stake in joint venture Duckyang Industry Co. Ltd. to Duckyang shareholders for $24.1 million, plus roughly $6 million in dividends.

Focused on electronics

While Visteon dumped its interiors unit, it continues to build up another core business: electronics.

In January, Visteon announced the $265 million acquisition of Johnson Controls Inc.'s electronics business -- which makes instrument clusters, infotainment displays and body electronics. The deal, which is expected to close in the first half of the year, is expected to grow Visteon's electronics operation to annual sales of $3 billion.

In 2013, Visteon sold its automotive climate business to the joint venture Halla Climate Control Corp. Halla Climate, the South Korea-based maker of HVAC systems, in which Visteon holds a 70 percent stake, purchased the climate businesses in countries including China, India, France, Netherlands, Mexico and the United States, for about $387 million, Bloomberg News reported.

The entity is renamed Halla-Visteon Climate Control Corp.

More turnaround efforts

The deals are the latest in Visteon's turnaround effort since exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010.

Upon exiting, it faced an uphill battle against investors under Don Stebbins, then chairman and CEO. Boardroom turmoil led to Stebbins' resignation in August 2012, and board member Leuliette became the new CEO.

Leuliette's first order of business was to cut costs and consolidate operations. The last seven quarters have shown improvement; the supplier posted net income of $513 million, or $1.02 per share, on revenue of $1.96 billion for the quarter that ended Dec. 30.

The company's focus on Asia remained strong, with the Asian market accounting for 50 percent of its sales in the fourth quarter. Korean automaker Hyundai-Kia accounted for 35 percent of Visteon's fourth-quarter revenue.

North America accounted for only 17 percent of Visteon's business last quarter.

You can reach Dustin Walsh at

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