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Danaher buys Thomson Industries for $165m

01 September, 2002

The Danaher Corporation is buying the privately owned linear motion giant Thomson Industries for $165m, plus an extra amount depending on Thomson`s future performance. Danaher plans to merge Thomson with its own linear component and actuator businesses to create a new division called Danaher Linear Motion Systems.

Thomson, which employs around 2,600 people and had sales last year amounting to $173m, has a broad range of motion products including actuators, linear bearings and guides, ballscrews, gearheads and stepper motors.

According to Danaher, there is "very limited overlap" between the two companies` product lines. "Danaher and Thomson have product offerings and capabilities that are highly complementary," says Lawrence Culp, Danaher`s president and chief executive. He adds that the combined business "will offer our customers the broadest range of standard and custom linear motion solutions in the market today.

"Thomson is known as the pioneer of linear technology in North America, and is an excellent extension of Danaher`s broad leadership in motion control," says Culp. "Given the synergies derived from the combination of the businesses, we believe that the reach of the already strong Thomson brand will be greatly extended."

Danaher operations being transferred to the new division include its Warner linear actuator and ballscrew operation, the German-based Warner Electric precision ballscrews business, and its Ball Screws and Actuators company, which makes leadscrews and ballscrews. These will be merged with Thomson operations including the stepper motor specialist Thomson Airpax Mechatronics and the actuator and ballscrew producer Thomson Saginaw. Also included is Thomson IBL, which makes precision and rolled ballscrews at its plant in Barnstaple, Devon, and has served as Thomson`s European headquarters.

Danaher has not revealed any details of how the operations will be rationalised, but it does say that it will be combining the two companies` sales forces "to provide better coverage of our customer base and eliminate duplication of effort". Danaher says that customers will notice no changes in the way they do business in the short term and should continue to ask for products by their present names.

Thomson Industries dates back to the 1940s when John B Thomson invented the world`s first anti-friction ball bushing linear bearing with unlimited travel. Since then, the company claims to have been a pacesetter in technologies including roller bearings, shafts, ballscrews, bearing balls and stepper motors.

In 1987, Thomson bought General Motors` Saginaw actuator operation to form the Thomson Saginaw Ball Screw company. In 1994, it acquired Devon-based IBL (Ballscrews) from FAG, which it renamed Thomson IBL. As well as serving as Thomson`s European HQ, the Barnstaple site is one of the world`s most modern ballscrew manufacturing plants.

Danaher`s new Linear Motion Systems division joins its four existing divisions: the Motion Components Group (covering speciality motors and linear and rotary motion products, sold under brands such as Portescap and Deltran); the Precision Systems Group (which supplies multi-axis positioning systems and includes the NEAT brand); General Purpose Systems (which focuses on motion control hardware and software sold under the Kollmorgen, Pacific Scientific, Superior Electric, Bautz and Seidel brands); and Special Purpose Systems (which provides customised hardware and software for h-gh-volume motion applications).

• The Thomson deal comes hot on the heels of another Danaher acquisition. The company paid $75m for the California-based Raytek Corporation, which makes instruments for non-contact infrared temperature measurements. Raytek will become part of Danaher`s Fluke operation, which has already sold Raytek products for several years. Raytek`s sales last year exceeded $50m.

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