American Standard Cos. Inc. (Piscataway, N.J.) sold its bath and kitchen products business July 23 to global private investment firm Bain Capital Partners LLC for $1.76 billion. Boston-based Bain Capital, founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was also part of a three-firm group that bought Home Depot’s HD Supply last month. (Romney left the firm in 2001 to head up the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.)
Reuters reported that analysts had predicted earlier in the year that American Standard’s bath unit could sell for as low as $1.2 billion. The sale “was faster than expected,” J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen Tusa noted.
American Standard shares rose 15 cents on the New York Stock Exchange to $59.40 on the day the sale was announced.
The sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending normal regulatory approvals and closing conditions. Shareholder approval is not required. The company said it will use the sale proceeds to repurchase common stock and reduce debt to keep the company at investment-grade standards.
The company announced its reorganization plans this past February - sell the bath and kitchen segment (American Standard brands) and spin off the vehicle control systems business (now named WABCO). The remaining company, the air-conditioning systems and services portion, would be re-named Trane, after its flagship air-conditioning brand.
The spinoff of WABCO was already scheduled for July 31, making the sale to Bain Capital the last step to complete the company’s plan.
In March, the company sold United Kingdom-based Venesta Washroom Systems, part of the bath and kitchen business, for $165 million to RS Building Products; this makes the total proceeds for the segment $1.92 billion.
As part of its initiatives to rebuild the segment’s profitability, American Standard Cos. announced last month that it would close ceramics manufacturing operations in Brazil and the United Kingdom, eliminating about 350 jobs and saving the company $17 million.
In early June, The Associated Press reported that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services would consider lowering its “BBB” corporate credit rating for American Standard Cos. Inc. to “BBB-” if the company were to go through with its plan to break up into three separate companies. The reason: The new company “would have a weaker business risk profile and its proposed capital structure would be more in line with the ‘BBB-’ rating.”
The bath and kitchen segment (which has 26,000 employees worldwide) reported sales for the first six months of 2007 as $1.32 billion; 2006 sales were $2.4 billion. The segment includes products under brand names American Standard®, Ideal Standard®, Porcher®, Jado®, Armitage Shanks®, Ceramica Dolomite® and Vidima®. These products are made in 54 production facilities in 23 countries.