Umeco eyes wind energy market with purchase of Italian plastics firm, IPM

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The IPM business will report to Tim Cooper, managing director of Umeco Composites‘ Process Materials group which also takes in Aerovac Systems and Richmond Aircraft Products.

Umeco, which is best-known for defence work in aerospace and on armoured vehicles like the Ridgback that is used in Iraq, bought vacuum bagging company Industria Plastica Monregalese (IPM) in a deal worth about £25million.

It said the deal would give it a global platform to supply materials to the wind energy market, which has seen high levels of growth recently. The global installed wind power capacity is expected to more than triple by 2012.

Umeco, an international provider of supply chain and advanced composite materials primarily to the aerospace and defence industries, bought IPM from its private shareholders for just under £15million, with the rest made up by the firm’s net debt. IPM is a leading manufacturer and supplier of vacuum bagging films for the composites industry and other markets.

Last year, IPM reported a profit of about £2million on revenues of just over £20million. At the time, its assets were valued at around £15million.

Umeco’s composites division is now the world’s largest supplier of composite curing materials to the rapidly growing wind energy market.

Vacuum bagging films are used in the process of manufacturing large-scale wind turbine blades and IPM is a key strategic supplier to Umeco Composites of this material, the firm said.

Clive Snowdon, the chief executive of Umeco, said: “The acquisition of IPM is a key element of our strategy to maintain and develop our high global market share in composite curing materials for the wind energy market.

“Using IPM’s vacuum bagging film, we have captured a significant share of this market. However, wind energy currently accounts for just six per cent of group sales and the scope for growth is very exciting. Not only does IPM secure a strategic important source of material supply, but it also provides us with the technology platform to establish the necessary local presence in other key markets.

“The further growth of our composites activities, which is focused on the aerospace, wind energy and automotive markets, is a core element of our group strategy. Following our investment of some £33million in the acquisitions of JD Lincoln and Primco over the past two years, today’s development represents a further important step forward.”

He said the acquisition of IPM provides Umeco Composites with a secure supply of a key process material, and with the opportunity to develop a wider global presence in the wind energy market, which would be achieved in a two step approach. The first would be to increase production capacity at the IPM facility in Italy to ensure the demands of customers can be fulfilled. The second will be to expand production into other regions of the world.

Umeco is a leading international provider of supply chain and advanced composite materials primarily to the aerospace and defence industries.

The majority of these products and services are supplied to major customers including Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Smiths Industries, Goodrich Aerospace, Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defence.

The Leamington Spa-based group is managed through two divisions – Supply Chain and Composites – and generated revenue in the year to March 2008 of £335.2million. The group, which employs 1,600 globally, has facilities throughout the world.

Much of its success is due to the healthy condition of the global aerospace sector which has seen massive orders placed with leading manufacturers and pioneering development work in the use of new materials. The most recent contract won by its composites division will see it supply materials for an MOD project dedicated to improving the protection of British troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A total of 151 Cougar vehicles will be turned into Ridgbacks at Coventry’s NP Aerospace by upgrading their armour protection and integrating weapons, communications systems and specialist electronic equipment. The morphed vehicles will then join their big brother, the Mastiff, on military operations.

ACG, which is owned by Umeco, will be involved in the provision of material to bolster existing vehicle armour and provide improved protection.

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