Cooper Industries makes sure its customers don't blow a fuse. The company makes electrical products that include circuit protection equipment lighting fixtures, wiring devices, and other power management and distribution equipment used in residential, commercial, and industrial construction and maintenance and repair applications. Generating two-thirds of its sales from the US, Cooper Industries operates through divisions that include Cooper B-Line, Cooper Bussmann, Cooper Crouse-Hinds, and Cooper Lighting. In mid-2012, Cooper Industries agreed to be acquired by industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp. in a mega deal valued at $11.8 billion.
Eaton's purchase of Cooper will create a juggernaut in its industry, sizably enhancing the capabilities and geographic footprint of the combined company's power management portfolio and electrical operations. The newly integrated company will be renamed Eaton Global Corporation Plc and will boast a combined revenue of $21.5 billion. Eaton sells a complementary portfolio of products -- including circuit breakers, motor starters, metering systems, and power management software -- to more than 150 countries.
Cooper's products are sold through distributors for use in general construction and renovation, plant maintenance, and telecommunications installation. The company also sells directly to utilities and OEMs for use in electronic equipment, appliances, machinery, and tools.
Demand for the company's products is subject to economic conditions, and driven by the level of activity in commercial and residential construction and renovation, industrial production, electronic component production, and capital spending by utilities. Cooper managed to remain profitable during 2009 by cutting spending, although sales were off by nearly one-quarter compared to the prior period. In 2010 sales remained flat, though excluding the impact of revenues from the tools segment (deconsolidated in the third quarter), sales would have been up by around 5% for the year. Net income improved slightly over 2009, in spite of reporting an equity loss related to Apex Tool. The company spun off its hand and power tool operations into Apex Tool Group, a 50-50 joint venture it formed with Danaher in 2010. (Years later, in late 2012, Danaher and Cooper Industries agreed to sell Apex Tool Group to Bain Capital for about $1.6 billion.)
The company depends heavily on aluminum, copper, plastics, steel, and other raw materials, along with electronic components, for its products and maintains multiple sources of supply for those materials, although there are limited sources for electrical core steel and electrical transformer oil. Prices for raw materials tend to fluctuate with economic conditions, and costs have trended upwards since the 2008-2009 global economic downturn.
In mid-2011 Cooper made an unsolicited bid for Laird PLC, a UK-based manufacturer of electronic components. Laird initially rejected the bid, which valued the company at around £493 million ($803 million), and remains resistant to being taken over. At the same time, Cooper successfully made two smaller acquisitions, first buying Italy's Gitiesse, a manufacturer of communication systems for the marine, oil, and gas industries. Next it bought Martek Power, a French and US provider of power electronic components, for €130 million ($186 million). Martek will become part of Cooper Bussmann. – less