DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE Systems is fishing in Asia's troubled waters.
That region's string of currency devaluations has left a number of financially troubled Asian suppliers up for grabs.
General Motors' $26 billion parts operation is looking for bargains, says Delphi President J.T. Battenberg III.
'It's time to invest in the future,' Battenberg said during an interview at Delphi's Troy, Michigan, headquarters in the USA. 'We have a track record of one acquisition a month for the past three years. We will continue that strategy.'
Battenberg declined to indicate which companies he might try to acquire. However, Delphi is known to be interested in Mando Machinery, South Korea's largest automotive parts supplier.
The Korean firm has been talking with the world's three largest automotive suppliers - Delphi, Visteon Automotive Systems and Robert Bosch GmbH.
Mando makes a variety of components, including steering gears, instrument panels, antilock brakes, airbags, alternators and starters. Although Mando itself is fairly healthy, it has been dragged down by the financial crisis that crippled its corporate parent, Halla Group of Korea.
Battenberg's interest in Asia is part of a larger trend. In recent years, Delphi has expanded overseas while shrinking its North American operations.
Within the next month or two, Delphi hopes to complete the sale of its seating, coil spring and lighting operations.
The company also reportedly told union officials it wants to transfer its shock absorber production from Ohio to Mexico.
Despite those marginal operations, however, Delphi's profits rose in 1997. According to GM's quarterly earnings report, Delphi earned $860 million, up 18 percent. For the year, Delphi's profit margin was 3.3 percent.
Battenberg's goal is to boost profits to 5 percent of sales. The acquisition of Delco Electronics should help. Overseas, Delco already shares technical centers and research and development headquarters operations with Delphi, Battenberg said.
Next, Battenberg must consolidate Delco's North American operations into Delphi.
'I feel pretty good about it. I think the integration is well on its way,' Battenberg said. 'We should wrap it up in mid-1998.'