DETROIT - American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. is seeking international bridgeheads as it moves to take the company public with a stock offering.
The auto parts maker is opening a series of worldwide business development offices as part of an effort to attract global automotive customers, according to industry sources and documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Only 11 percent or less of American Axle will be sold to the public. But a U.S. stock exchange listing and publicly available financial statements will allow prospective American Axle customers to assess its financial stability and growth plans, investment bankers say.
The SEC filing says American Axle is adding offices around the world in its effort to diversify, strengthen and globalize its original-equipment customer base. All its sales of axles, propeller shafts and other products are in North America; 96 percent are to General Motors. Automotive News ranks American Axle as the 16th-largest supplier of original equipment parts to North America.
An expected drive into Latin and South America is likely to be aided by the regional office American Axle is adding to its manufacturing plant that is being built in Guanajuato, Mexico, according to its prospectus.
The company also is opening an office in Ulm, Germany. That office is expected to employ up to six sales and engineering staffers.
American Axle, which last year posted sales of $2.16 billion, already has a regional sales office in Tokyo.
American Axle's planned stock sale is no surprise. The company appeared headed that way last September when it was acquired and recapitalized by Blackstone Group, New York merchant bankers, and their Blackstone Capital Partners II fund. Such buyouts are usually followed by a stock offering that enables such investors to more than recoup their investment by selling the company to the public.
But American Axle's owners are selling just 11 percent or less, based on its estimated $750 million sale price to Blackstone. The SEC filing indicates that the company will use $92.5 million from the offering to reduce debt and for general purposes. The planned sale amount - $115 million worth of stock - reflects an expected premium on the small percentage of shares intended for sale.
Last year the company posted net income of $55 million, down 11 percent from $62 million the year before, according to the prospectus. The decline was due to higher expenses related to its recapitalization and higher income taxes.