Monday, August 18, 2014
ZBB Energy gets new China investor
August 18, 2014 11:18 AM
Menomonee Falls-based ZBB Energy Corp.’s Chinese joint venture has received a new $3.24 million cash investment.

Wuhu Fuhai-Haoyan Venture Investment L.P. invested the funds in the joint venture, Anhui Meineng Store Energy System Co. Ltd., and has a post-closing equity position of 8 percent.

ZBB and Meineng Energy will use the funds to further develop the China market and to finance ongoing operations. The post-closing valuation of the firm is $42 million.

Meineng, formed in 2011, completes energy storage assembly, testing, development and sales. Its storage solutions aim to improve the efficiency of renewable energy use.

ZBB, which manufactures energy storage and control platforms, is working with Meineng to accelerate the development of the next generation of electronics and battery systems.

"ZBB continues to work very closely with Meineng on product development, manufacturing and testing. Meineng is both a highly valued strategic supplier and customer," said Eric Apfelbach, chief executive officer of ZBB Energy. "The relationship is very synergistic for both entities."

"We are very happy to have OFC become part of Meineng Energy," said Brad Hansen, president of ZBB Energy and CEO of Meineng Energy. "OFC has a proven track record of investing in key markets and companies, and being able to help their invested companies achieve success in the China market. Meineng selected OFC as an investor because of their excellent capability to help the company grow in the China market."

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Busch Precision acquires part of Maintenance Service Corp.
August 18, 2014 11:27 AM
Milwaukee-based Busch Precision Inc. has acquired certain assets, including two lines of business, from West Allis-based Maintenance Service Corp.

Busch will add machine tool service and repair and CNC retrofitting to its capabilities. The operations will be part of a new Maintenance Service division at Busch Precision operating out of Busch’s Milwaukee headquarters. The division will continue to serve MSC’s clients.

Some of MSC’s key technical staff and managers have joined Busch’s staff.

“We are excited about expanding our machine repair offerings, and the addition of the retrofitting capabilities, which we see as complementary to our existing precision machining, metalworking machinery maintenance, and manufacturing businesses,” said Michael Mallwitz, president and chief executive officer of Busch Precision. “We are committed to maintaining the same high standards of technological leadership established by MSC in the marketplace.”

“This transaction will provide greater resources and scope of product offerings to the customers of the lines of business we are selling to Busch Precision,” said Dick Marsek, president and CEO of MSC.

Marsek will be serving in a business development role for the new division. His son, Max Marsek, will serve as vice president of the Maintenance Service division.

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Briggs & Stratton to acquire Allmand Bros.
August 18, 2014 11:30 AM
Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp. announced that it has agreed to acquire Holdrege, Neb.-based Allmand Bros Inc. for $62 million.

Allmand Bros. designs and manufactures high quality towable light towers, industrial heaters and solar LED arrow boards used for construction, roadway, oil and gas, mining and sporting and special events. It has about $80 million in annual sales and sells its products and parts in 40 countries. Briggs will acquire all of the outstanding shares of the company, and the deal is expected to close in the next 30 days.

"This acquisition helps us to further our strategic initiative of focusing on attractive higher margin, commercial end use products," said Todd Teske, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Briggs & Stratton. "The acquisition of Allmand augments our higher margin commercial product portfolio, expands our market access to include the rental channel, and helps diversify our business into industry segments that we do not meaningfully participate in today.  In addition, we believe this acquisition will accelerate our sales growth in the U.S. and abroad.  We look forward to welcoming the management team and the employees of Allmand to our team, and building upon the strong foundation that has made Allmand a highly successful company."

Teske said in a conference call this morning that the Allmand deal is a strategic fit similar to its other recent acquisitions.

“When we look at acquisitions, we look at market knowledge and product, and we look at distribution channels,” Teske said.

"For over 75 years, Allmand has been producing innovative products that make customer worksites brighter, warmer, safer, and more productive," said Roger Allmand, chairman of Allmand Bros. "The combination of Allmand with Briggs & Stratton will provide even more opportunities for our people and our customers.  With a proven track record of operating successfully for over 100 years, we believe that Briggs & Stratton will be able to accelerate our presence globally.”

Briggs & Stratton announced the acquisition in its fourth quarter 2014 earnings report today.

The company reported net income of $7.8 million, or 17 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $55 million, or $1.17 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Net sales were $496.8 million, up from $477.2 million in the same period a year ago.

For the full year, Briggs reported net income of $28.3 million, or 59 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $33.7 million, or 73 cents per share, in 2013.

Net sales for the year were $1.9 billion, flat from 2013.

The company attributed the flat sales to a quiet storm season. Last year was a bit of an anomaly, since there was pent up demand that drove higher sales, Teske said on the conference call.

Also, restructuring actions related to narrowing the company’s assortment of lower-priced Snapper brand consumer lawn and garden products resulted in costs of $1.4 million for the quarter and $6.5 million for the year.

"Despite a slower than normal start to the lawn and garden season this spring, we saw improved sales results for our engines and products due to the new innovative products launched this year and market share gains made within the large engine category," Teske said. “In addition to higher sales, we saw margin expansion in our engines business even as we continued to invest in our future with new product launches and building out our international sales distribution in emerging regions. Within our Products segment, our new pressure washer product launches and our commercial lawn and garden business continued to perform well even as we saw reduced demand for generators in the U.S. following an uneventful storm season and lower pre-season snow thrower sales to our European customers due to a significantly below normal snow season in Europe last winter."

The board of directors has also approved another $50 million in share repurchases.

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Johnson Controls opens state-of-the-art crash test facility
August 18, 2014 11:32 AM
Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. has opened a new, industry-leading North American crash test facility at its automotive seating headquarters in Plymouth, Mich.

The 6,000-square-foot testing center includes a Seattle Safety ServoSled, a device that allows for highly accurate and standardized seat safety testing across the company’s global footprint. It also has testing facilities in Burscheid, Germany; Changchun and Shanghai, China; and Yokohama, Japan.

The lab meets strict governmental seat safety specifications and industry standards. The closed-loop system can be monitored in real time to evaluate seat behavior as testing occurs. Johnson Controls will use the equipment to perform high-precision tests to evaluate the stability and dynamic behavior of seat structures and the effectiveness of head restraints in preventing whiplash.

"The investment in this new North American crash test facility reinforces our commitment to innovation and technology as well as the safety of our products," said Jeff Williams, group vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls Automotive Seating's global Complete Seat and Supply Chain group. "There are only 44 ServoSleds worldwide and only 10 in the United States. Johnson Controls has one of the largest sled testing networks globally.”

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Wangard plans $14 million industrial space development in West Allis
August 18, 2014 11:34 AM
Wauwatosa-based real estate development firm Wangard Partners Inc. plans to build a two-building, $14 million industrial space development on the former Yellow Freight Truck terminal sites at 11525 and 11406 W. Rogers St. in West Allis.

The proposal includes a 72,000 square foot building for an undisclosed tenant and a 50,000 square foot flex space industrial building that will be built on speculation.

Wangard Partners plans to start construction in fall 2014 with completion by spring 2015.

"West Allis is seeing a demand for quality industrial space and Wangard Partners' proposal will offer an attractive, central location opportunity to meet the market demand," said Ald. Thomas Lajsic, Common Council president.

The city has approved selling Wangard Partners the property for $845,000. The purchase price includes funds to underwrite the city's demolition and environmental expenses. The city has completed demolition of the site in preparation of construction.   

The project is expected to close on financing by September. West Allis' community development regional entity, First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprise Inc. (FIRE) has approved a $14 million New Market Tax Credit allocation to Wangard for the project. The tax credit allocation would provide approximately $3 million in equity financing to this project. In addition, the city has offered up to a $500,000 loan from the City of West Allis Revolving Loan Fund.

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ICAFe to acquire Illinois firm
August 18, 2014 11:36 AM
Waukesha coating systems and coating product solutions distributor ICAFe Inc. has agreed to acquire Dove Equipment of East Peoria, Ill.

Dove distributes coating application equipment and offers systems integration. It has six other Midwestern locations, including a facility in Milwaukee. There is also a Dove Mexico headquarters in Monterrey and locations in Puebla and Guadalajara, Mexico.

ICAFe distributes equipment and products used for pretreatment, coating and finish processing products. It specializes in the design, engineering, building and installation of turnkey systems for the paint, surface plating and coating industries. ICAFe has grown through strategic acquisitions. It acquired RPM Industries in 2001, O’Donohue Industries Inc. in 2006 and Production Concepts Inc. in 2008.

The combined companies will be one of the largest industrial finishing systems distributors in the industry. The Dove Employee Stock Ownership Plan participants have approved the transaction.

Dove will remain in its current locations, and its operations will retain the Dove name.

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