WILTSHIRE, England—Avon Rubber P.L.C. has acquired VR Technology Ltd. to move full force into the rebreather product manufacturing market
It also has purchased a new factory in Wisconsin for its Avon Engineered Fabrications business. Avon Rubber said the combined cost of the new plant and the purchase of VR Technology was about $3.9 million.
VR Technology produces rebreather systems and computer products for the diving market. It will complement and enhance Avon's current and planned offerings while creating new respiratory protection opportunities for the rubber product maker, an Avon spokesman said.
One key growth avenue created by the acquisition will be with navies worldwide, he said.
"Rebreather technology is new to Avon's product range, and we will launch our first branded rebreather product for military use in 2014," according to the spokesman.
The acquired company's products have extensive underwater applications that aligns with where Avon wants to expand. For instance, Avon currently is responding to a competitive tender from the U.S. Navy for an emergency escape device using rebreather technology with an estimated initial value of more than $30 million, the firm said.
Located in a 6,170-sq.-ft. facility on the south coast of England in Dorset, VR Technology has a work force of about 17 who have an extensive understanding in all aspects of diving, the spokesman said.
"The advanced team is made up of management, sales and development experts chosen to provide both the depth of experience and skills needed to cover all aspects of the technical diving market from personal dive computers to rebreather life-support systems," he said.
VR Technology, which has a service and technical support center in Wisconsin and another in the Far East, will operate as part of the Avon Protection division within the Avon Rubber Group.
"Going forward, Avon Protection will offer its advanced technology solutions to land, air and naval forces," the spokesman said.
Avon Protection "is recognized worldwide as the leader in respiratory protection system technology, and our progression from ground forces to air and now submarine is a natural one and very exciting for us all," he said.
Integration of the acquired business, founded in 1998, and personnel into Avon's existing operation will be gradual.
"Evaluation is under way as to the best future operational arrangements," the spokesman said.
On its production front in the U.S., the company bought a new plant in Picayune, Miss., that will be used by subsidiary Avon Engineered Fabrications. It will replace a smaller facility, which the firm operates under a lease that expires Sept. 30.
The new factory spans about 72,500 square feet and provides about 50 percent more space than the leased plant, the spokesman said.
"The opportunity arose to purchase the new site, which has been assessed as a perfect fit," he said. "The company was in a position to take that opportunity."
There are no immediate plans for expansion of the subsidiary, but the spokesman said Avon Engineered Fabrications will assess any new opportunities that arise from the move later in the year.
However, on the dairy rubber products side of its business, Avon does plan to penetrate deeper in the markets of Brazil, China and India.
The company said that the number of cows being milked using an automated milking process is growing and creating a potentially strong market for its consumable products.
That's why it set up a sales and distribution operation for dairy products in China in 2012 and will do the same in India and Brazil during the next five years, the company said.