The proposed joint venture of automotive supplier Lear Corp. and financier Wilbur L. Ross has agreed to acquire 14 Collins & Aikman Corp. sites in Europe-which could launch the new International Auto Components Group.
Southfield, Mich.-based Lear and W.L. Ross & Co. L.L.C. of New York are in the process of creating IAC, which would combine Lear's plastics-intensive interior trim unit with other auto supply production, including C&A's U.S. holdings. Those holdings have been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since May.
Troy-based C&A's European facilities entered court protection shortly after the North American parent filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit. Administrators in England have overseen day-to-day operations and options for the businesses.
Under the deal announced Nov. 28, the venture would buy five plants in England, along with facilities in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
The court-appointed administrators, Simon Appell and Alastair Beveridge, are continuing to weigh options for two other factories in England-at St. Neot and Stourport-while further United Kingdom operations in Redditch, Walkden and Carlisle are shutting down.
Discussions are under way for the separate sale of four C&A facilities in Italy.
The sale, for an undisclosed amount, still must win approval from government agencies, Appell warned in a news release.
"We must temper our enthusiasm at today's news with some caution," he said. "We are currently speaking with customers, employees and creditors to inform them of the current status of the sale."
The administrators said they hope to complete the sale early in 2006.
The full C&A holdings in Europe generated $1 billion in business in 2004. The North American holdings are worth more than $1.5 billion in injection molding alone. The Lear and Ross joint venture still must go through the bankruptcy process to buy the C&A holdings in the U.S.
The announcement on the pending European buyout comes less than a month after Lear and Ross unveiled their plans for the venture.
"We also are appreciative that the automobile industry has decided to support our efforts," Ross said. "This is the start of a major global factor in the automotive interior plastics industry."
This story was written by Rhoda Miel, a staff member of Plastics News.