Change affects plant in Germany

Johnson Controls to sell headliner, sun visor business to private equity firm Atlas

Change affects plant in Germany

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Johnson Controls Inc. plans to sell its headliner and sun visor business to an affiliate of Atlas Holdings LLC, a private equity firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Johnson Controls, which counts on Europe for about half of its sales, expects to close the deal by April 30, the supplier said Wednesday. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The change will effect one JCI plant in Europe. A spokeswoman for the company said on Thursday that the 340 permanent employees at the factory in Ueberherrn, southwestern Germany, will transition to the new owner once the sale closes.

In a written statement, Johnson Controls said the sale of the headliner and sun visor product lines "will improve the overall competitiveness of our interiors business, improve our profitability and enable us to further strengthen and focus on our core interiors business."

Last year, Johnson Controls had announced its desire to sell off its unprofitable interiors unit and also its electronics division. Since then, the company has sold its electronics operations to Gentex Corp. and Visteon Corp.

The sale leaves Johnson Controls with a portion of its interiors unit, which also makes door panels, instrument panels and floor consoles. The unit generates about $4.2 billion in annual revenue.

In a January interview, Beda Bolzenius, president of Johnson Controls' seating operation, identified seats and batteries as the company's core automotive units. Bolzenius said the entire interiors industry was unprofitable -- and that suppliers needed to consolidate.

"Nobody is happy, and nobody is making the necessary return on capital to finance growth," Bolzenius told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News. "Over-capacity is an issue."

A spokesman for Atlas declined to comment on the matter earlier today. Atlas specializes in investing in and turning around distressed companies.

Johnson Controls ranks No. 6 on the Automotive News Europe list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $22.5 billion in 2012. Europe accounted for 47 percent of that total.

Sean Gagnier contributed to this report.

You can reach David Sedgwick at dsedgwick@crain.com.

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