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Sampla expands presence in North America

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Sampla's Cris Balint (left) and Fabio Depaoli.

SEATTLE—Sampla Belting North America L.L.C. is gaining a much bigger presence in the U.S. and Canada, thanks principally to three significant moves the firm is making.

One of a handful of firms that manufacture lightweight mono-filament and solid woven conveyor belts in America, the company has acquired the belting division of Desmi-AFTI Inc.

It also plans to add another 25,000-sq.-ft. facility near its North American headquarters and plant in Lackawanna, N.Y., after making numerous financial investments at the facility in the last few years.

In addition, the belt maker has purchased full ownership of its exclusive distributor in Canada, Sampla Belting Canada Ltd. Financial details of the acquisitions and planned expansion were not disclosed.

On the international front, Sampla's parent company, Milan, Italy-based Sampla Belting S.r.L. is selling its South African fabrication business to Megadyne S.p.A. for an undisclosed amount, said Fabio Depaoli, managing director of the company.

Its three latest moves reinforce the company's long-term strategy to focus on the company's resources in North America, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, said Cris Balint, vice president of Sampla Belting.

He and Depaoli discussed the company's additions at NIBA—The Belting Association's annual meeting, held Sept. 24-27 in Seattle.

Key acquisition

Sampla's acquisition of the AFTI specialty lightweight belting end of the Desmi operation “is a good fit, in terms of the product range, the customer base and also in terms of their employees,” Balint said. “The product range integrates well and is complementary to Sampla's current product range.”

Desmi is a Danish company that specializes in the production of oil spill control products. In 2008, it acquired Applied Fabric Technologies Inc. in Orchard Park, N.Y., to enter the belt manufacturing market.

That divided its focus and it has decided to step back.

It sold the belting business to concentrate on its core operation—marine oil and spill containment and recovery products—in North America, according to Peter Lane, vice president of Desmi, which was founded in 1834.

The firm will retain a sales office in Orchard Park, he said, while production of oil spill and recovery equipment will be consolidated into the company's Chesapeake, Va., plant, which Desmi opened in early 2014.

AFTI manufactures and fabricates specialty custom belting and industrial fabric for a select number of global industries, including food handling, aluminum extrusion, furniture, printing, textile, and pulp and paper.

Sampla is a major international manufacturer and fabricator of lightweight belts with a distributor presence on all six continents and subsidiaries in Italy, the U.S., Brazil, China and Canada. The 64-year-old company is a privately held, third-generation, family owned business with more than 150 employees worldwide.

Its North American subsidiary was founded in 1997. The company has three manufacturing locations, in Italy, Brazil and the U.S.

“We have had a long business relationship with Desmi-AFTI ... and the fact that we were familiar with their products and personnel made the decision to buy the assets of the belting division easier,” Balint said.

In addition to purchasing the belt business, Sampla is adding John O'Brien, marketing director of Desmi-AFTI, to its management team as product manager. Also joining Sampla will be AFTI's key belt technician and fabricator. O'Brien will train and transfer specialized fabrication knowledge to other members of the Sampla staff.

Some personnel at the Orchard Park plant, many of whom worked in both the oil boom and belt ends of the Desmi operation, will remain with Desmi. The company did not say if any would be laid off.

Sampla plans to relocate the acquired belt business, inventory and machinery to its 40,000-sq.-ft. Lackawanna plant, where it will be fully integrated into Sampla, Depaoli and Balint said.

“We wanted to expand in the North American market, and this will help us do that,” Depaoli said. Balint added that the purchase will aid revenue growth, allow the company to enter new markets, expand its distribution base and bring in experienced personnel.

Outward growth

Growth through acquisitions is an important component of the company's overall strategy in North America, Balint said. Purchasing the belt division's assets “will enhance our product offering to our existing and new distributors, thus ensuring healthy profitable revenue growth. We expect the main growth to come from products destined for a number of sectors, including food handling and processing, furniture, printing, pulp and paper, and textile.”

In early 2009, the company purchased its present plant in Lackawanna. Currently it has approved plans to add a 25,000-sq.-ft. facility near its other site, the two officials said.

Balint said construction will start in the second part of 2015. The new building will be used to house additional production equipment and inventory, he said.

That also will give it additional room in its main plant for the acquired operation.

The manufacturing department at its existing U.S. facility handles production of lightweight belts for the U.S. and Canadian markets. The plant's capabilities consist of a 30-inch wide flat sheet thermoplastic urethane extruder along with a 2-meter wide PVC coating line. Its focus is on custom production of belts for niche markets.

In addition, the plant offers full fabrication services, including slitting, vulcanizing, automated perforation and high frequency profile welding.

“Sampla's long-term business strategy is to focus more of our resources in North America, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, two established markets with a friendly environment,” Balint said.

As part of that strategy, it acquired its exclusive distributor, Sampla Belting Canada. The operation is located outside of Toronto in Milton, Ontario, and employs about 21. It offers complete conveyor belt fabrication and 24-7 installation services, he said.