With a cast of customers like Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan, and Renault, J. L. French Automotive Castings hopes to get rave reviews. The company provides automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers with aluminum die-cast engine and drivetrain components, such as brackets, cam covers, engine blocks, front engine covers, oil pans, and transmission cases. It has supplied components for a number of Ford models (including such top sellers as the F-Series pickup and the Explorer SUV); it also makes parts for GM's Chevrolet trucks. The company has five manufacturing facilities in Asia, Europe, and North America. J. L. French's Allotech International subsidiary operates an aluminum smelter.
Burdened with debt and stung by the auto industry downturn, J. L. French filed for Chapter 11 in 2009. It's the company's second time going through bankruptcy reorganization in this decade, after a four-month stint in 2006. In 2009 J. L. French struck a deal to reduce its secured debt from about $280 million to around $65 million through debt-for-equity swaps with its lenders. The company blamed declining automotive production and industry-wide credit restrictions for its seeking Chapter 11 protection from creditors. Certain lenders will provide $15 million in debtor-in-possession financing so J. L. French can continue daily operations in the US and abroad. Through the pre-packaged Chapter 11 filing, the company expects the latest reorganization also will be a brief one.
The company reportedly processes as much as 6 million tons of zorba (a mixture of aluminum and other metals such as copper, lead, tin, and zinc) per month. According to some industry insiders, however, J. L. French has been buying more twitch, a furnace-ready material made up of about 90% aluminum. Although twitch is generally more expensive, the purchasing change should reduce processing costs.
To gain a foothold in one of the world's emerging automotive markets, J. L. French formed a joint venture with two Chinese companies. The venture, Chongqing JL French-Yumei Die Casting Company, is based in Chongqing, China. Besides its China facility, J. L. French has an overseas manufacturing facility in Ansola, Spain. – less