One of its biggest deals of 2018 was its July acquisition of Lauren Manufacturing and Lauren Plastics, which projects its ISG business to account for 7.6 percent based on fiscal 2019 revenue. Prior to 2018, Cooper Standard's non-automotive business accounted for about 5 percent of its $3.62 billion in consolidated 2017 sales.
"It was an excellent opportunity to acquire what we feel is a very good company," Stephenson said. "Lauren is an excellent strategic and cultural fit, which was very important for both us and Lauren. It's everything hoped for in terms of the quality of the asset and the quality of the people. This allows us to grow our ISG business significantly in North America."
Lauren adds new markets that Cooper didn't previously participate in, most notably seals for the building materials space. In addition to adjacent, non-automotive markets, the firm brings established customers and relationships that Cooper's core technologies can break into.
Stephenson said the integration process has gone smoothly and that Lauren has become a "very important part" of its ISG business.
"Lauren is a jewel," Stephenson said. "We think of it as a high-quality asset. We think there are other assets like it out there that if we can find them, buy them right and integrate them well, it could be really beneficial to the company and our shareholders."
The firm expanded its global leadership team to place an added focus on acquisition opportunities, appointing Gabrielle Corrent as its vice president of strategy and mergers and acquisitions.
Reshaping the core
Cooper Standard's other big move from 2018 was entering an agreement with Continental A.G. to divest its anti-vibration systems business for $265.5 million. The transaction still is going through the approval process and Stephenson said it won't be complete until the first half of 2019.
If approved, the AVS business will merge with Continental's Vibration Controls business unit, giving it 15 facilities: five in Germany; two in France; one in Slovakia; one in Mexico; one in Brazil; one in China; one in Auburn, Ind.; one in Mitchell, Ontario; and will hold a 50 percent stake in Sujan Cooper, a joint venture in India that operates sites in Pune and Chennai.
"So far everything has moved along well," Stephenson said. "It's been well received by our customers, our employees and the Continental folks. We believe this has been a very good landing spot for that business. The AVS business is a good business, but we didn't see a way of being No. 1 or No. 2 in that product line. We're No. 1 or No. 2 in our core product lines and in this case we didn't see a clear path to that, so we decided to make the divestiture. We think we've found an excellent home for that business."
It doesn't take long to see why the deal makes sense for Continental. Cooper Standard's AVS business is strong in North America and India while Continental's Vibration Controls business is well-established in Europe and China. The two also have complementary customer bases.
The combined business will generate sales of about $737.8 million. Cooper Standard reported about $326.7 million for its AVS unit in 2017. The business employs about 1,000 people globally, who will all transfer to Continental with the business.