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Altra sets its sights on becoming a $1bn business

02 July, 2008

You may not immediately recognise the name Altra Industrial Motion, but if the company’s recently appointed director of European sales, Neil English, succeeds in his aims, you soon will. Altra is a US-based corporation that owns some of the best-known brands in the mechanical power transmission market, including Warner Electric, Matrix International, Wichita Clutch, Stieber, Twiflex, Bibby Transmissions and Huco Dynatork.

Altogether, Altra owns 19 main businesses and more than 40 product lines, and has production facilities in nine countries. Its global sales this year are expected to be worth around $635m – with about $160m of this coming from Europe – and Altra has set it sights on becoming a $1bn business by 2010.

Altra was formed in 2004 when its largest investor, Genstar Capital, bought the Colfax power transmission group from Danaher and merged it with the bearing-maker, Kilian Manufacturing. In 2006, Altra bought the UK-based Hay Hall Group, whose members included Bibby, Huco, Twiflex and Inertia Dynamics. Last year, Altra went public with a listing on the Nasdaq exchange in the US.

Neil English

According to Neil English (above), Altra is now probably the world’s second-largest manufacturer of couplings and has about half of the global market for brakes and clutches used in forklifts. It also accounts for about 95% of the market for brakes and clutches used in garden machinery.

Altra’s various brands operate independently, each with their own sales forces. Until recently, there was no cross-selling of other group members` products. One of English’s key tasks is to change this so that salespeople from one Altra brand in Europe will also sell products from other brands, where appropriate. He points out that this will avoid duplicate visits from different salesforces and will make it easier for smaller member companies, such as Huco, to do business with blue-chip customers who feel safer dealing with larger suppliers.

Not all of Altra’s brands will be cross-sold in this way. Some, such as Matrix, have specialised OEM customers, while others, such as US-based Boston Gear, do not offer the metric-size products needed for the European market. Boston is looking at the possibility of retooling its products for metric dimensions, or making an acquisition in Europe.

According to English – who has previously worked for Sumitomo, Holroyd and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board – Altra has a list of 160 possible acquisition targets. It plans to hit its expansion targets through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions.

Altra is looking for around $100m of new business this year, 25% of this coming from Europe. Globally, the corporation is targeting a growth rate of at least 10% this year.




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