Tower International has a tall order to fill; it supplies carmakers worldwide. The company manufactures engineered structural metal components for vehicles, such as body, chassis, and frame structures. It also makes welded assemblies for cars, pickups, and SUVs and more recently entered the solar energy market as a supplier of stamped mirror-facet panels and welded support structures. Key customers include Volkswagen, Fiat, and Ford Motor. The company emerged from Chapter 11 via a purchase by Cerberus Capital Management in 2007. Tower filed to go public in March 2010; at the closing of its $100 million IPO, its name changed from Tower Automotive to Tower International.
A portion of the proceeds from its IPO will be used to pay off certain debt; the remainder is planned for working capital. The company has spent the better part of 2008 and 2009 dealing with the auto industry's collapse. It has worked on making manufacturing and purchasing costs leaner and production reporting and analysis tighter. Tower's cost-cutting measures follow a bankruptcy reorganization that sought to recover from a precarious financial position, set in motion by a combination of rising steel prices, production cuts among key customers, and high costs associated with program launches.
Newly organized, Tower is looking at opportunities to apply its expertise in engineered large stampings and complex welded structural assemblies outside of its existing automotive markets. It plans to invest up to approximately $35 million to equip and lease a solar production facility in Arizona to manufacture products for Stirling Energy Systems. That facility could also provide a base for additional expansion into the solar products market.
To a great extent, the company's name change is due to its growth and diversification into markets other than just automotive. Tower International saw an opportunity in W Industries, a Detroit-based business that supplies welded metal components to the automotive, as well as the aerospace, alternative energy, and defense industries. W Industries built the armored personnel compartments for General Dynamics Land Systems mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP). W Industries was about $25 million in debt and needed an investor when Tower stepped in to acquire its debt from JPMorgan Chase.
Even with its new opportunities, production of automotive structures and assemblies will remain core to Tower's business. The company boasts about 30 production facilities strategically located nears its customers -- mainly large automotive original equipment manufacturers -- in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. North America and Europe represent its largest customer bases, while countries such as Brazil and China represent emerging markets. Tower supports its production operations with additional engineering and sales locations around the globe.
Cerberus remains Tower's majority shareholder. – less