Klarius completes deal with ArvinMeritor

A Cheshire-based businessman has bought a European subsidiary of US car parts giant ArvinMeritor.

A Cheshire-based businessman has bought a European subsidiary of US car parts giant ArvinMeritor.

A Cheshire-based businessman has bought a European subsidiary of US car parts giant ArvinMeritor.

Tony Wilson has acquired the vehicle exhaust manufacturer for an undisclosed sum through his Klarius Group business.

The acquired company is the largest customer of his Lancashire-based engineering company, WST Engineering.

Wilson owns 75% of Klarius and is chairman. He has assembled a management team to run the business led by managing director Andrew Jones, who holds a 20% stake in the company.

This is not the first time Wilson has bought a business from ArvinMeritor. Ten years ago he acquired WST Engineering, which makes brackets, clamps and other accessories for exhausts, and employs 100 people at a site near Chorley.

Wilson told reporters he will be investing in the development of Klarius’ emission reduction technology.

“We see this acquisition as the first in a series that Klarius is looking to undertake in the automotive sector,” he added. “We are confident that Klarius will play a significant role in the industry’s development.”

The deal was backed by the Manchester office of Landsbanki Commercial Finance and was structured, led and arranged by Ford Campbell Corporate Finance.

Ford Campbell, which was led by partner Dave Cheetham, is a long-standing adviser to Tony Wilson.

Cheetham said the deal was particularly challenging due to his team having to co-ordinate the deal across three countries.

“This acquisition is the first in Klarius’ automotive buy-and-build strategy. Management believe the emissions sector to be a key growth area amid increasing environmental and political pressure to tackle global warming,” he added.

Landsbanki Commercial Finance provided an asset-based lending line to the group’s UK, French and Italian operations.

The transaction was led by business development directors Peter Jones and David Lomax.

Jones said the bank was introduced to the deal by Ford Campbell and that this is not the first time the two have worked together.

“This is the second deal of 2007 with Ford Campbell, which has been impressed with Landsbanki Commercial Finance’s ability to deliver in complex transactions,” he added. “Management was looking for a long-term partner who could support their buy and build strategy.”

Klarius was also advised by a legal team led by Darryl Cooke and Michael Clark at DLA Piper in Manchester.

Clark said the firm was delighted to assist with such a positive first acquisition for Klarius. “It was a complex deal that involved daily contact with DLA Piper’s international offices in Milan and Paris, demonstrating our unique local and global reach.

“The acquisition will be a great fit with the existing WST Engineering operation, and we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with Klarius Group as it continues to expand,” he added.

Landsbanki Commercial Finance appointed GVA Grimley to handle the property valuations with LighthouseCarrwood, part of the AIM-listed Lighthouse Group, providing specialist final salary pensions and group employee benefits advice.

Manchester-based commercial insurance brokerage Caunce O’Hara arranged a complex insurance programme for Klarius’ five locations including, sites in France and Italy as well as plants in Blackpool, Lancaster and Stoke on Trent.

Caunce O’Hara’s Mark Lloyd said: “We’ve been working with WST Engineering for a number of years and therefore had already built a strong relationship with the company. We worked on the deal with a select few insurers in the UK and also liaised with a network of European brokers. Due to the size of the deal, a number of experts at Caunce O’Hara were involved.”

As well as supplying Kwik Fit, Unipart and other distributors in the aftermarket exhaust sector, the acquired business also supplies exhausts for top marques including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati.

It has some 1,000 staff at sites in Cheadle (Staffs), Glasson Dock (Lancs) and Blackpool as well as its operations in France and Italy.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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