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The Globe and Mail

Ontario manufacturer Mold-Masters sold for $975-million

An employee at Mold-Masters in Georgetown, Ont., tests a mould for plastic razor blade shafts.

Jim Ross/The Globe and Mail

Mold-Masters Ltd., one of Canada's most internationally adventurous manufacturers, has been sold for close to $1-billion.

The innovative maker of injection moulding equipment for the plastics industry is changing hands from 3i Group PLC, a British private equity firm that has controlled it for the past five years, to Milacron LLC, a plastics machinery maker based in Batavia, Ohio. The purchase price was $975-million.

Mold-Masters, a private company based in Georgetown, Ont., was started in the 1960s by German immigrant Jobst Gellert. The Gellert family owned it until 3i Group came in as an investor in 2007.

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The family has maintained a partial ownership position in the company, but that has now been sold along with 3i Group's controlling stake.

Mold-Masters expanded dramatically over the years and now has manufacturing operations in Canada, the United States, Brazil, India, China, Britain and Germany. Its core product line is "hot runner" technology, crucial components that plastic-product makers use in the injection-moulding process.

Bruce Catoen, Mold-Masters' chief technology officer, said the new ownership will be very positive for the organization. "We have a [combined] company now that spans a much greater scope in terms of plastics processing and control solutions," he said.

There will be synergies in business functions such as sales, purchasing and finance, he said, and also in the two firms' product lines.

Milacron, which came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 and is now owned by a private equity investor, said it is enthusiastic about Mold-Masters diverse international operations, particularly in Asia. Milacron's chief executive officer Tom Goeke said that Mold-Master's CEO Bill Barker will stay on to lead the operation, and that together the two companies will continue to expand around the globe.

Mold-Masters was sold after an auction process that took several months.

A 3i executive said the decision was made to sell the firm because it was the "right time" and the company had increased dramatically in value. The sale is set to close in April.

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Jonathon Fischer, a former CEO of Mold-Masters who was with the firm for 22 years until he left in 2010, said 3i Group was an extremely supportive shareholder that helped Mold-Masters expand and grow, even through the depths of the recession.

But Milacron will likely also provide significant resources to expand Mold-Masters' portfolio and give it "greater global reach," he said.

The fact that Mold-Masters is now owned entirely by a U.S.-based firm is irrelevant, he said. "The actual [location of] ownership is less important than the strategic direction of any particular owner."

As for the overall Canadian manufacturing sector, it has a positive future for companies that take a niche position and have an international outlook, Mr. Fischer said, despite pressures from a high dollar, global competition and high costs.

"We do have an ability to work with the strengths of many countries, and at the same time keep intellectual property and niche manufacturing local," he said. "We are able to globalize while maintaining a strong local focus."

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