Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ITW, others respond to Japan disasters

Supply chain companies support humanitarian efforts, keep tabs on situation in Japan following earthquake and tsunami

Uncertainty still looms about the long-term effects of Japan’s recent natural disasters and ensuing nuclear crisis on the global supply chain. Product shortages, higher prices, and logistics problems threaten some industries, such as electronic component manufacturing and distribution, as others wait to see if there will be a trickle-down effect from production slow-downs in industries such as automotive and technology. In the meantime, many manufacturers and distributors remain focused on the humanitarian efforts needed to help Japan recover.

Diversified manufacturer ITW recently donated $250,000 to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund and said it will provide a 3 to 1 Matching Gift Program for employee donations.

In a similar move, electronics distributor Arrow Electronics, recently pledged to match its employees’ first $100,000 in donations to designated crisis-recovery charities at work in Japan.

Also in the electronics distribution space, British giant Premier Farnell was the first to launch an informational micro-site devoted to the Japan tragedies on its element14 online community. The site includes updates from electronic component manufacturers located in Japan, as well as those that source products from Japan, along with news, humanitarian support information, and discussion forums.

Distributors of electronic components are watching the situation carefully, since Japan produces a large portion of the world’s semiconductors and related items. Roughly 40% of the world’s NAND flash memory and 15% of its DRAM are produced in Japan, for example.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oracle may bid for Lawson Software

Report says other bidders may also emerge

A news report by today said that the Oracle Corp. may make a bid for Lawson Software, outbidding Infor and Golden Gate Capital’s offer of $1.8 billion.

Lawson Software, which counts billionaire investor Carl Icahn as one of its biggest shareholders, has risen 4.4 percent above the offer of $11.25 a share from Infor and Golden Gate Capital disclosed March 11, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Oracle, the second-biggest seller of business applications software, may buy Lawson, whose clients include Safeway Inc. and Volvo AB, Soleil Securities Corp.

Oracle stands to profit from Lawson Software’s medical records and supply-chain management businesses, which analysts estimate will help push the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company’s earnings to a record this year, Bloomberg said. A bidding contest would also increase Icahn’s windfall from his 10.9 percent stake in Lawson Software, which currently represents a 51 percent gain, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Friday, March 25, 2011

H.B. Fuller sales rise 9.7% in Q1

Gross profit margins affected by increased raw material costs

H.B. Fuller, a provider of adhesives, sealants, paints and other specialty chemical products, today reported Q1 revenue of 339.5 million, up 9.7 percent versus the first quarter of 2010.

Net income for the first quarter of 2011 was $14.4 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, versus $19.0 million, or $0.38 per diluted share, in last year's first quarter.

Higher average selling prices, higher volume and acquisitions positively impacted net revenue growth by 6.8, 2.2 and 1.7 percentage points, respectively, the company said. Foreign currency translation reduced net revenue growth by 1.0 percentage point. Organic revenue grew by 9.0 percent year-over-year. On a sequential basis, net revenue dropped approximately 6 percent relative to the fourth quarter of 2010, in-line with typical seasonal patterns.

Gross profit margin was down approximately 300 basis points versus the first quarter of 2010, primarily due to the cumulative effect of escalating raw material costs over the past year. Gross profit margin improved by 20 basis points versus the previous quarter as a combination of product reformulation and pricing actions offset ongoing raw material cost increases.

"We are pleased with the results of the first quarter," said Jim Owens, H. B. Fuller president and chief executive officer. "We continued our growth momentum with organic revenue up 9 percent from last year. While raw material costs continued to rise in the quarter, our gross margin improved sequentially due to a combination of pricing actions, reformulation and product substitution that were executed efficiently by the entire organization. We have bumped up our full-year revenue guidance to between 10 percent and 12 percent above last year primarily to reflect additional price increases required to recover material costs. We met our expectations for profitability in the first quarter and, as a result, we are reaffirming the full-year earnings per share guidance that we provided at the beginning of the fiscal year."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Durable goods orders drop 0.9 percent

Machinery orders fall 4.2 percent

Lower orders for machinery and defense related products helped lead to a 0.9 percent drop in durable goods in February, the biggest decrease in four months, the U.S. Commerce Department said today.

Machinery orders fell 4.2% to $26.6 billion. Orders for major defense items dropped 24.8% to $8.3 billion.

January durable goods orders were revised up to a 3.6% increase. The government originally reported that total orders rose 3.2% in January.

Inventories of durable goods climbed 0.9% last month, the 14th consecutive increase.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Housing starts plunged in February

Starts drop off sharply from January numbers

Construction of new houses and apartments dropped 22.5 percent in February to 479,000annualized units, the Commerce Department reported today. The decline from January was the biggest one-month drop in starts since March 1984.

Starts are at their lowest level since the record low of 477,000 recorded in April 2009.

The report comes after starts increased 18.4% in January, primarily due to multi-family starts. Starts of new single-family homes fell by 11.8% to 375,000 in February, while starts of large apartment units fell 46.1% to 104,000. Building permits fell 8.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000. This is the lowest level of permits on record.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Business executives optimistic about economy

Two-thirds of respondents expect economy to improve in next six months

U.S. business leaders are the most optimistic they have been since before the recession, according to Grant Thornton LLP’s most recent Business Optimism Index, a quarterly survey of U.S. business leaders.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) believe the U.S. economy will improve in the next six months, compared with 47% in November. Half of the business leaders (49%) report that their company plans to increase staff in the next six months (up from 43%), while only 10% plan to decrease staff (down from 15%) The Index itself is up 6.7 points to 69.7, the highest it has been since 2004.

Nearly nine in 10 of the business leaders (87%) are also optimistic about their own businesses, with only 13% reporting that they are pessimistic about their companies’ growth over the next six months.

Eaton acquires Internormen Technology Group

Deal will strengthen Eaton's global business

Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation today announced it has agreed to acquire Internormen Technology Group, a company specializing in in hydraulic filtration and instrumentation products. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and terms were not disclosed.

“The sale of our family business is a positive step towards further global growth,” said Helmut Franger, founder of Internormen Technology. “Eaton is the perfect partner for us to jointly open new markets and develop new products and solutions“The sale of our family business is a positive step towards further global growth.”

“Internormen Technology has been a proven leader in advanced filtration technologies for almost 40 years,” said William R. VanArsdale, president of Eaton’s Hydraulics Group, which includes the hydraulic, filtration and golf grip businesses. “This acquisition will significantly expand Eaton’s filtration product portfolio with technically advanced products and systems for mobile, industrial hydraulic and process applications. Internormen has a leadership position in fast growing markets such as wind power and a well-established presence in emerging economies such as Brazil, India and China. Its global footprint strengthens our regional presence in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.”

The company, which is based in Altlussheim, Germany, has sales and distribution subsidiaries in India, China, Brazil and the United States. Internormen employs approximately 360 people and had 2010 sales of more than $55 million.

Internormen Technology has been owned by the Franger family since its foundation in 1972. After completion of the sale of the company, the sons of the founder of the company, Stefan and Bernhard Franger, who held leadership positions at Internormen, will assume similar management responsibilities at Eaton.

“The sale of our family business is a positive step towards further global growth,” said Helmut Franger, founder of Internormen Technology. “Eaton is the perfect partner for us to jointly open new markets and develop new products and solutions.”

Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2010 sales of $13.7 billion. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011, Eaton is a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has approximately 70,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 150 countries.

Lawson Software receives buyout offer

Software provider Infor and Golden Gate Capital reportedly offering #1.8 billion in unsolicited offer

Lawson Software has received an unsolicited $1.8 billion proposal to be bought by Infor and Golden Gate Capital, the Minneapols-St. Paul Business Journal is reporting.

The offer was for $11.25 per share in cash, which translates into about $1.8 billion.

St. Paul-based Lawson said it's discussing the unsolicited proposal with the potential buyers, the news site said.

If a deal is completed, Lawson would be the second software company acquired by Infor in recent years. Infor bought Minneapolis-based SoftBrands in 2009.

Berkshire Hathaway buys Lubrizol

The transaction for the specialty chemical company is valued at $9.7 billion

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and The Lubrizol Corporation today announced a definitive agreement for Berkshire Hathaway to acquire 100% of outstanding Lubrizol shares for $135 per share in an all-cash transaction. The transaction, which was unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company, is valued at approximately $9.7 billion, including approximately $0.7 billion in net debt, making it one of the largest acquisitions in Berkshire Hathaway history.

This price represents a 28 percent premium over Lubrizol's closing price on Friday, March 11, 2011, and is also 18 percent higher than Lubrizol's all-time high share closing price.

"Lubrizol is exactly the sort of company with which we love to partner - the global leader in several market applications run by a talented CEO, James Hambrick," said Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway chief executive officer. "Our only instruction to James - just keep doing for us what you have done so successfully for your shareholders."

James Hambrick, Lubrizol chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, "This transaction provides compelling value to our shareholders and is a clear endorsement of the growth and diversification success Lubrizol has achieved. We are very excited to have the opportunity to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family. We believe its philosophy of supporting long-term global investments in technology, assets and employees will enhance execution of our growth strategies. Such a long-term commitment is more important than ever in today's global economy to deliver true market-leading products and services for our customers."

The transaction is subject to the approval of Lubrizol's shareholders and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including the expiration of waiting periods and the receipt of approvals under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and applicable non-U.S. merger control regulations. Berkshire Hathaway and Lubrizol expect the transaction to be completed during the third quarter of 2011.

After the close of the transaction, Lubrizol will operate as a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and will continue to provide innovative technology, outstanding service and superior global supply chain support to its customers. Lubrizol will remain located at its Wickliffe, Ohio, headquarters and will continue to be led by its current management team.

Citi and Evercore Partners are acting as financial advisors to Lubrizol, and Lubrizol's legal counsel is Jones Day. Berkshire Hathaway's transaction counsel is Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

The Lubrizol Corporation is a specialty chemical company that produces and supplies technologies to customers in the global transportation, industrial and consumer markets. These technologies include lubricant additives for engine oils, other transportation-related fluids and industrial lubricants, as well as fuel additives for gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, Lubrizol makes ingredients and additives for personal care products and pharmaceuticals; specialty materials, including plastics technology; and performance coatings in the form of specialty resins and additives.

With headquarters in Wickliffe, Ohio, The Lubrizol Corporation owns and operates manufacturing facilities in 17 countries, as well as sales and technical offices around the world. Founded in 1928, Lubrizol has approximately 6,900 employees worldwide. Revenues for 2010 were $5.4 billion.

Four injured in explosion at Bostik plant

Bostik is a well-known manufacturer of adhesives and sealants for industrial markets

An explosion and four-alarm blaze ripped through the Bostik manufacturing plant in Middleton, Mass. Sunday, rocking homes for several miles and sending four workers to the hospital. Bostik is an adhesives and sealant manufacturer and sells its products into construction, industrial and a number of other markets.

None of the four employees were believed to be seriously injured. State environmental said they were concerned about chemical contamination to the nearby Ipswich River.

Firefighters from across the area, along with State Police and emergency management officials, responded shortly after 7:30 p.m. to reports of an explosion at or near 211 Boston St.

Two Bostik buildings were reportedly heavily damaged.

The cause of the explosion at the Middleton facility was not immediately apparent, authorities said.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Engel named chairman of WESCO International

Engel will replace Roy W. Haley

WESCO International, one of the largest industrial and electrical distributors in the country, has named President and CEO John J. Engel as chairman of the $5.1 billion company.

Engel’s new role is effective May 25, when he will replace current chairman Roy W. Haley.

The move is part of a succession plan the company announced in 2009 when Engel was selected to replace Haley as CEO. Haley had agreed to continue to serve as chairman until his term ends in May.

“I have had the distinct privilege of being associated with WESCO and I could not be more proud of our Company and the quality of our organization,” Haley said in a written statement. “John Engel joined WESCO almost seven years ago, and he has done an outstanding job positioning WESCO for continued growth and profitability over the long term. I am confident that the management team, under John’s leadership, will be highly successful.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Graybar’s sales up 5% in 2010

Net income rises 13% on sales of $4.6 billion

Electrical, communications and data networking products distributor Graybar posted solid sales and earnings results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2010 this week.

Fourth-quarter sales rose nearly 15% compared to the same period last year, while full-year sales rose more than 5% to $4.6 billion. Full-year earnings were up 13% to $42.3 million, the company said.

“Like many businesses, we were unsure what to expect from the economy at the beginning of 2010. After a slow start, momentum began to build in our markets and we capitalized on this opportunity. I am very proud of how our employees focused on serving our customers to achieve growth,” said Robert A. Reynolds, Jr., Graybar’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Reynolds added, “Our performance in 2010 resulted from improving conditions and a consistent focus on our long-term view of our business. Our financial condition remains very stable, with low debt levels and higher earnings. The company is well positioned for anticipated growth in 2011 as we continue to work to our customers' advantage.”

Based in St. Louis, employee-owned Graybar has nearly 240 distribution facilities throughout North America.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arrow/Samsung announce new global distribution agreement

Arrow to provide distribution and design-in services

Arrow Electronics, Inc. (NYSE:ARW) today announced a global distribution agreement with Samsung Electro-Mechanics, a leading manufacturer of electronic components and technologies.

Arrow will provide distribution and design-in services for Samsung Electro-Mechanics worldwide, excluding Korea, for Samsung's broad product offering in the passives area of capacitors, resistors, inductors and crystals.

“Samsung is an innovator and a globally recognized leader in technology and electronics,” said Peter Kong, president of global components for Arrow Electronics. “Together with Arrow's strength in supply chain services, value-added capabilities, and global reach, this relationship will help expand our ability to serve our customers’ diverse needs around the world.”

“Samsung is engaging with Arrow Electronics in a global franchise agreement because of their market position with global customers, excellent sales and technical support and logistics expertise,” said Dr. CJ Choi, executive vice president/chief of business unit for Samsung Electro-Mechanics. “We are looking forward to reaching new markets with our technology into Arrow’s global customer base.”

Small business hiring increases slowly

Hiring outlook remains solid; price cutting ending

February posted positive numbers in job growth, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, which reports a modest increase of .4 points in its latest Index of Small-Business Optimism, bringing the monthly reading to 94.5. Most notably, hiring and future plans to hire were solid and hopefully presage a string of steady job creation months this year. While historically weak, these relative gains signal good news for a sector still deeply encumbered by weak sales. Still, only a net 9 percent of small-business owners surveyed expect that business
conditions will improve over the next six months.

“This is not a reading that characterizes a strongly rebounding economy,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “But it is the third best reading since the fourth quarter of 2009 when the economy was expanding rapidly. So, it gives us cause for some real optimism. Apparently the future is looking brighter for a few more small-business owners, although much will depend on what Congress does this year.”

The other significant change in February’s reading is the end of a long period of price cutting. This signals a return in the months ahead to increases in average prices as supply adjustments restore pricing power. More small businesses reported that their inventories were “too low” as opposed to “too high,” indicating, also, an end to the inventory adjustment cycle which began when consumers started saving and cut consumption spending by nearly half a trillion dollars. Going forward, there will continue to be upward pressure on prices as demand strengthens. As growth improves, price hikes will stick as owners try to restore profitability.

Some other highlights of February’s Optimism Index include:

-Access to credit still appears to be a low priority for small businesses, with only 4 percent reporting financing as their top business problem. Overall, 92 percent reported that all their credit needs were met or that they were not interested in borrowing. Eight percent reported that not all of their credit needs were satisfied, and 51 percent said they did not want a loan (12 percent did not answer the question and might be presumed to be uninterested in borrowing as well).

-Reports of positive earnings trends improved, albeit only one point in February, registering a net negative 27 percent. This slight increase shows that far more owners report that earnings are deteriorating quarter on quarter, instead of rising.

-Although consumer spending appears to have risen at a robust 4 percent rate in the fourth quarter, small businesses did not appear to have benefited much from the spending gains. The net percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reporting higher nominal sales over the past three months was unchanged at a net negative 11 percent. Unadjusted, 21 percent of all owners reported higher sales (last three months compared to prior three months, unchanged) while 37 percent reported lower sales (up one point).

-Overall, sales trends are not yet supportive of a widespread recovery in the small-business sector. Usually a leader in a recovery, housing starts have remained flat, and can be held accountable for much of the missing new jobs.

The NFIB report is based on the responses of 774 randomly sampled small businesses in NFIB’s membership, surveyed throughout the month of February.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

84 Lumber closes 10 more locations

Most locations are in the Southeast

84 Lumber, one of the country’s largest construction supply companies, has closed 10 more facilities today, seven of them in the Southeast, according to Pro Sales magazine.

The company shut these locations:
 Brooksville, Fla.
 Deland, Fla.
 Fort Pierce, Fla.
 Winder, Ga.
 South Haven, Miss.
 Springfield, Mo.
 Farmingdale, N.J.
 Tulsa, Okla.
 Anderson, S.C.
 Karns, Tenn.

"These 10 stores have consistently underperformed for quite some time, and while we do see some positive movement in the housing andconstruction markets overall on a national basis, these markets continue to either lag severely with no sign of a significant rebound that fits ourbusiness model, or we have multiple stores in the region and we can handle the existing store business from other locations," Jeff Nobers, 84's vice president of marketing and public relations, wrote iin an e-mail to ProSales. The company plans to sell the properties.

The closure reports come about two weeks after 84 Lumber closed branches in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Richmond, Va. The company now has 265 locations.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Manufacturing, construction added jobs in February

Unemployment rate finally drops below 9 percent

The manufacturing and construction sectors each added 33,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department reported today as non-farm payrolls rose by 192,000. This is especially good news for the construction sector, which had lost 22,000 jobs in January. Many economists had said that loss was due to weather conditions.

Almost all of the manufacturing gain occurred in the durable goods industries, including machinery (+9,000) and fabricated metal products (+7,000).

Manufacturing has added 195,000 jobs since its most recent trough in December 2009; durable goods manufacturing added 233,000 jobs during this period.

The U.S. unemployment fell below 9% for the first time in nearly two years.
The January number was revised to show an increase of 63,000 jobs from a previous estimate of 36,000.

The unemployment rate, which is obtained from a separate household survey, fell to 8.9% last month.

Eaton Corp. to move Milwaukee division

Construction expected to begin this summer

Eaton Corp. will move its division headquarters from Milwaukee's north side to Wauwatosa, the Milwaukee Journal Bulletin reports. Eaton has selected the Milwaukee County Research Park, at Highway 45 and Watertown Plank Road, for its electrical sector Milwaukee operations and technical center, now at 4201 N. 27th St.

Construction is to begin this summer on the 90,000-square-foot building, Mayor Jill Didier announced Wednesday. The building is to be completed by mid-2012.

The move will shift 145 employees to the research park, and "there is potential for future employment growth," Didier said.

Eaton executives for years had considered a move from the outdated building, which was built in 1965. Eaton spokesman Todd Parks said the new building will allow the company to operate more efficiently.

"The choice of this site reaffirms Eaton's commitment to the state of Wisconsin and the region, and provides us with a location capable of supporting our continued growth," said Matt Lorenz, Eaton's industrial control division vice president and general manager, in a statement.

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