FINDLAY, Ohio (March 24)—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is exploring the possibility of selling its Cooper-Standard Automotive business. Cooper has retained international investment banking group Lazard Freres & Co. L.L.C. to assist it in the process.
"At this time," said Thomas A. Dattilo, Cooper chairman, president and CEO, "our board of directors believes that it is appropriate to evaluate strategic alternatives for the group. We believe that Cooper may best be served by dedicating our resources to investing in our tire business and further pursuing global expansion."
With fiscal 2003 sales of $1.66 billion, Novi, Mich.-based Cooper-Standard Automotive is one of world's 10 largest non-tire rubber products businesses. It makes fluid handling systems, body sealing systems and active and passive vibration control systems, primarily for automotive original equipment manufacturers, at 42 plants in 12 countries. Operating profit last year was $96 million, down from $117 million in 2002. Cooper-Standard represented 47 percent of Cooper's sales and 54 percent of operating earnings last year.
Cooper said it would use the net proceeds of a sale to reduce debt, invest in tire operations, return capital to stockholders and/or repurchase shares.