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Cooper Standard moves bolster Asia-Pacific region

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Cooper Standard Asia-Pacific Technical Center
Cooper Standard recently inaugurated its new Asia-Pacific Technical Center in Shanghai.

NOVI, Mich.—Cooper Standard Holdings Inc. has been very busy in the Asia-Pacific region.

The parent company for Cooper Standard Automotive Inc. is forming Cooper Standard Inoac Pte. Ltd.—a joint venture with Inoac Corp. of Japan—to expand the reach of its fluid transfer systems products in the Asia-Pacific automotive market.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. Cooper Standard will own 51 percent and Inoac the remaining 49 percent, Cooper Standard said.

Cooper Standard also celebrated the grand opening of its new Asia-Pacific Technical Center in Shanghai. It is in the process of relocating employees from its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Kunshan, China, to the new Shanghai facility. Kunshan is about 35 miles west of Shanghai.

“As we looked at our business over the last 18 months, we clearly identified we were very strong in North America, very strong in Europe and had historically under-invested in Asia,” said Keith Stephenson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Cooper Standard. “This is part of us accelerating our growth in Asia.”

All of this activity comes on the heels of another strong financial quarter for Cooper Standard.

The firm reported a 9.3-percent increase in sales for the second quarter to $857.6 million.

Net income decreased from $27.4 million to $13.2 million, but that included a loss of $30.3 million from a debt repurchase the firm completed in April, said Allen Campbell, executive vice president and chief financial officer, during an Aug. 1 conference call.

For the half-year, sales rose to about $1.7 billion from about $1.53 billion in 2013. Net income dropped from $48.1 million in 2013 to $32.9 million.

Cooper Standard said during the conference call that it has completed the sale of its emissions product line to Halla Visteon Climate Control Corp.

HVCC said in a statement it paid $46 million for the product line.

“We looked at the thermal and emissions business as a very attractive product category, but not our product category,” Stephenson said.

“We've got our four core product lines that we've carefully defined, and as we looked at this business, we simply realized this is not our space. We think we found a great home for those products and our people.”

Powerful combination

The joint venture with Inoac is intended to accelerate the firm's fluid transfer systems product introduction into Asia and further strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific automotive market, which Cooper Standard said it has identified as a key market.

“The fit between our two companies is really outstanding,” Stephenson said. “We have over 50 facilities combined in Asia today to draw on and support this joint venture.”

Cooper Standard has a limited Asian presence in the fluid transfer system market, which primarily consists of North American exports and distribution.

The joint venture will represent the firm's first manufacturing presence in the region for fluid transfer systems, Stephenson said.

The first phase of the joint venture will be based in China, Cooper Standard said, and production is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2015. Stephenson said the firms are in the process of selecting a location for the venture.

Expansion into additional countries is expected to follow, which Stephenson said likely will consist of a combination of owned and leased facilities.

Key products for the new joint venture are expected to include low pressure, premium hose and transmission oil cooler lines for radiator, emissions, vacuum brakes, turbo chargers, heater, air conditioning and power steering applications, Cooper Standard said.

“Sometimes you go it alone and go for a perfectly organic play, but here was an opportunity to move this thing much faster with a great partner,” Stephenson said.

“We looked at both paths, but this was a unique opportunity with Inoac.”

Jeffrey Edwards, Cooper Standard chairman and CEO, praised Inoac for its extensive footprint throughout Asia, decades of experience with rubber and plastics products, and close relationships with the Japanese original equipment manufacturers.

“Combining Inoac's experience with Japanese customers and their Asia manufacturing footprint with Cooper Standard's global expertise in the fluid transfer systems business as well as our broad customer base really creates an unmatched potential to gain share of the $2.5 billion fluid transfer automotive market,” Edwards said during the conference call.

Inoac based in Japan

Inoac manufactures polyurethane, rubber, plastic and synthetic material products for product applications in automotive, two-wheeled vehicles, information technology and other industries. It is based in Japan and employs more than 23,000, with operations in 16 countries.

Inoac Chairman Soichi Inoue said in a statement that the joint venture provides Inoac an opportunity to further expand its product offering into the Asian market.

Cooper Standard's Shanghai technical center is about 8,200 square feet and will employ 55, including the employees transferring from Kunshan.

Only employees with Asia-Pacific responsibility will transfer to the new facility in Shanghai. Stephenson said the rest will remain to operate the Kunshan site.

Cooper Standard will provide local technical support with engineering and design capabilities to the entire Asia-Pacific region's customer base, which initially will be based around product development and support. Stephenson said those capabilities will be broadened going forward.

“We clearly recognize that to support global programs, we've got to have global resources,” he said.

“As you look at Asia and the growth in China and the fact that more and more programs from OEMs are global, we clearly recognize the need to have those resources sitting in the largest car market in the world.”

Focus on four core units

Cooper Standard's divestment of its thermal and emissions product line will allow it to focus on its rubber-related business: sealing and trim; fluid transfer systems; fuel and brake delivery; and anti-vibration systems.

The sale includes exhaust gas recirculation modules, electronic coolant pumps and valves, electronic wastegate actuators and electronic throttle bodies in addition to related assets from operations in North America, Germany, France and the Czech Republic, Cooper Standard said.

Stephenson said the money generated from the sale will be re-invested in the firm's four core product lines.

“We didn't have a single dedicated facility that went with the transaction. These products were produced in shared facilities,” he said.

“We think that through the growth of our business through our new technology we'll be able to utilize that capacity to support the four core product lines.”

Cooper Standard has been busy on the expansion front around the world. In June the firm opened a 206,000-sq.-ft. facility in Sremska, Serbia, to manufacture sealing systems for the European region.

Other recent expansions include sealing production in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and fluid transfer and fuel and brake delivery systems in Fairview, Mich., to serve the North American region.

The firm supplies systems and components for the automotive industry worldwide.

Headquartered in Novi, the firm employs more than 25,000 and operates in 19 countries.