A new leadership team, new operating model and several newly added business units have put Canadian plastics and lightweighting company ABC Technologies Holdings Inc. on a path to supporting electric vehicle production.
For ABC Technologies, ‘EV’ could spell success
New management team was brought in last year to reposition the company; 5 EV programs from four automakers represent 75% of new contracts
ABC’S EVOLVING OWNERSHIP
• July 2016: ABC Technologies Holdings Inc. is acquired by the private equity company Cerberus Capital Management.
• February 2021: Cerberus launches a public offering, listing ABC on the Toronto Stock Exchange while maintaining partial ownership.
• June 2021: The private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc. buys a 51-per-cent stake in ABC. Cerberus remains a partial owner.
• November 2021: The asset management company Oaktree Capital Management buys Cerberus’ remaining stake in ABC.
• Currently: A portion of ABC’s shares remain publicly traded, though Apollo owns 65.1 per cent of the company and Oaktree owns 28.3 per cent.
Chief Executive Officer Terry Campbell said the Toronto-based supplier has undergone a “pretty significant transformation” since he took over last August.
“We did quite a bit of restructuring over the past six, seven months, and we’re well on our way to yield the benefits that we know are ahead,” he told Automotive News Canada.
This positive outlook has not come without some growing pains.
Among other steps taken to revamp global operations, ABC’s board approved in October plans to shut down a plant in Poland. The company followed this up in February with the sale of a 50-per-cent interest in four joint-venture plants: one in Canada, one in Mexico and two in the United States.
ABC also laid off about 150 corporate staff during the first quarter of its 2023 fiscal year — July through September 2022 — as it reorganized into three operating units, down from six.
Founded in 1974, ABC now employs about 2,500 workers in Canada across 13 plants. Globally, its footprint, including joint ventures, extends to 44 plants and about 10,500 workers. It is publicly traded, though majority-owned by the U.S.-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc.
Campbell previously held leadership roles at suppliers such as Woodbridge Group, Johnson Controls Inc. and Magna International Inc., and was brought in by ABC with a handful of other outside senior executives last year to refocus its business.
EXPAND IS THE PLAN
The new team’s reassessment of ABC’s footprint has been coupled with expansion. On March 1, the company closed on a US$165 million acquisition of Windsor Mold Group Technologies in Windsor, Ont. The company builds tooling for automakers and parts suppliers at its nine plants across North America.
The deal is a good strategic fit that will expand ABC’s product offering, build out its injection-molding expertise and deepen its relationship with two domestic automakers and a Japan-based automaker operating in North America, Campbell said.
The combined business will also have a larger network behind it, he said.
“Scale and stability are very important to the OEMs.”
The purchase follows up on a pair of major international acquisitions ABC completed last year.
In March 2022, it closed deals to buy Ohio-based dlhBOWLES Inc., for $255 million and Germany-based plastic-components maker Karl Etzel for $95 million.
The addition of dlhBOWLES, best known for its fluid-management systems, firms up the company’s footing in that area as well as several other segments, ABC said in a statement at the time, while the purchase of Karl Etzel was geared toward expanding in Europe.
NEW BIZ FROM EV TRANSITION
One of dlhBOWLES’ other areas of expertise, Campbell said, is thermal-management systems for batteries. That provides one avenue for growth as ABC and the wider automotive industry transition to EVs.
Much of ABC’s new business is gravitating toward EVs. During its fiscal first quarter of 2023, the company said it won business on five EV programs from four automakers, representing 75 per cent of ABC’s new contract wins over the period.
Campbell also sees battery cells as a potential growth area for ABC.
“We think that’s a market we can serve,” he said. “We have advanced technologies, and we can be very competitive in that space.”