DETROIT - Bidders are lining up as one of North America's last major independent automotive stamping companies goes on the block.
More than 20 prospective buyers - including stamping companies, investment firms and European auto suppliers - have expressed interest in Active Tool & Manufacturing Co., a key supplier to DaimlerChrysler, according to three sources close to the deal. The first round of bids was due last week.
Interest in the company is so great that telephone calls began the day after company founder and Chairman Henry Drettmann died last November at age 93, according to one of the sources.
Fred Schoen, Active Tool's CEO, said an outright sale is one possibility. 'The company needs to grow and needs globalization, so we're looking for ways to join with other people to support the continued growth of the company.'
The Roseville, Mich., company, which had 1998 sales of more than $400 million, is a full-service stamping company. The company could fetch as much as $300 million, according to an investment banker.
The stamping industry has been consolidating more slowly than other automotive sectors and remains fragmented. But 'not many $300 million to $400 million stampers go up for sale,' said the CEO at a competing company.
One company with North American operations that has a comparable reliance on stamping is Mayflower PLC of the United Kingdom.
An industry analyst said the sale would be of interest to suppliers such as Tower Automotive Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Budd Co. of Troy, Mich.; Magna International Inc. of Aurora, Ontario; and European stamping companies.
The successful bidder for the family-owned company founded in 1929 would gain more than $200 million in annual business with DaimlerChrysler. Active Tool produces pickup box assemblies for the four-door Dodge Dakota pickup.
The company has recovered from a financial stumble in the early 1990s. It was operated very conservatively, with substantial cash on its balance sheet and limited investment in operations, according to one of the sources.
Active Tool operates four Michigan plants, including one of the most modern stamping plants in North America, in Clinton Township. That plant was part of a recent $100 million investment.
CEO Schoen said a decision on whether Active Tool will be sold, and to whom, could come within 90 days.