Viasystems: An Eye on Details

Is Viasystems up to its old tricks?

The PCB fabricator today announced a deal to acquire DDi for $268 million, a move that will push the company back into the industry top 10 for the first time in years.

Keep in mind, 12 years ago, Viasystems was the second largest PCB company in the world, behind Sanmina, with sales of about $1.25 billion. The deal pushes Viasystems past that mark for the first time since 2001. That’s when the dot.com market imploded, and telecom was wiped out, taking much of Viasystems’ capital with it.

That disaster made Viasystems something of an industry punchline. Two bankruptcies followed, plus a high-profile takedown of the venture capitalists behind the company, and some expected the entity to collapse like a black hole. But lo and behold, the remaining management wisened up, stopped buying other people’s garbage with other people’s money (Viasystems paid cash for DDi), and concentrated on learning the business. They shuttered money-losing operations in the US and Europe, and broadened their focus to automotive. Oh, and they learned being smaller and profitable is better than being the biggest and bleeding.

What a difference a decade makes.

What this means for Mikel Williams has not yet been revealed. The DDi CEO remade the company, which also suffered badly after a series of management missteps and internal struggles. Profits have improved four years running (revenues took a minor hit in 2011), and the company successfully absorbed smaller rival Coretec without a hitch. One hopes Williams stays in this industry; he’s a star and would be missed.

Also watching this closely will be Shennan Circuits. DDi reportedly outsources some of its larger orders to the China-based board shop. That is certainly about to change.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He is also vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversees all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 20 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

3 thoughts on “Viasystems: An Eye on Details

  1. I imagine the folks at Shennan Circuits are feeling some pain. Viasystems has a huge presence in China, with a factory right across the river in Zhongshan, and three others in Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Huiyang. This acquisition sheds some light on Viasystems recent hiring surge.

  2. ViaSystems ripped the UK industry apart. They bought what were profitable and reliable companies and screwed it up – I hope the phrase “other people’s garbage” wasn’t intended at these UK companies ‘cos that definitely wasn’t the case. Another case of US acquisitions of UK/European companies, pilfering the good stuff (‘cos US can’t think/develop it themselves) and walking away when it suits. Absolute disaster in my mind and woudn’t touch them with a barge-pole.

  3. @Anon 3:21: It’s true that Viasystems bought — at a steep profit for the owners — and subsequently closed many sites, and not just in the UK.

    But we should keep in mind that Hicks, Muse et al are no longer in the picture, and haven’t been for years. Tim Conlon has shown himself to be a more than capable executive, having brought Viasystems back from the dead.

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