Schrader Electronics snapped up in billion dollar deal
Co Antrim car parts supplier Schrader Electronics has been sold by its private equity owners to an American company in a $1bn (£0.6bn) deal.
Sensata Technologies is the latest new owner of Schrader International in two years, after Tomkins off-loaded it to Madison Dearborn Partners in 2012.
Stephen McClelland, managing director of the firm, which employs 1,000 people in Antrim and has clients including Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, said it would be "business as usual" at the company.
And he said moving from ownership by a private equity outfit to a manufacturer could improve its prospects in the long run.
"It's very good news. We are now in the home of a major sensor manufacturer with a global reputation," he said.
The sale was announced last week and is expected to conclude towards the end of the year.
Schrader Electronics announced a major investment of £56m and the creation of 241 jobs in April – its second big expansion in two years.
In April, Mr McClelland said he expected to double turnover within three years after tyre pressure monitoring becomes mandatory in Europe this year.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the purchase by Sensata was good news for the firm.
"While founded locally, Schrader has been owned by international companies for quite some time," she said. "The news that Schrader has now been purchased by Boston-based Sensata is positive news for the company."
And Sensata was an apt owner for the business, she said.
"This latest purchase offers great synergy with the company's work and recognises its drive for continuous improvement and determination to carve a niche in the market," the minister added.
"Its commitment to investing over £56m and creating 241 new jobs at its Carrickfergus and Antrim facilities remains on schedule."
The takeover of Schrader is the latest in a string of big corporate deals involving US firms this year.
Liberty Insurance, which is also based in Boston, has bought Hughes Insurance, while Whale Pumps in Bangor has been taken over by US company Brunswick Corporation.
Adrian Doran, Barclays head of corporate banking in Northern Ireland, said the province had become increasingly attractive to international investors.
"International companies and private equity firms are cash rich and actively looking for attractive acquisitions both in the real estate and corporate markets," he said.
Economist John Simpson said Schrader had built up a competitive operation in Northern Ireland, with its success helped by the timing of the evolution of advanced tyre pressure systems.
He added: "The changes in ownership are consistent with a profitable business where existing shareholders have enjoyed the benefit of the capital gains as market valuation has increased.
"The change of ownership is, in the case, an indication of success and may be some assurance of the further development of the business.
"One possible area of concern would be if new owners had any incentive, or reason, to move production to another location."
Paul McBride, corporate partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said the merger and acquisition activity among locally-based businesses was "a strong indicator of international confidence in Northern Ireland".
Mr McBride added: "We have now had a good flow of substantial overseas acquisitions, such as Liberty Mutual acquiring Hughes Insurance.
"These should also act as a stimulus for our indigenous businesses to look again at growth by strategic acquisition."
Schrader Electronics announced pre-tax profits of £17m in the year to the end of December, and turnover of £173m.