CFO: AVX is shopping, but not for Kemet

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AVX Corp., a global manufacturer of electronic components with headquarters in Fountain Inn, is sitting on top of a billion dollars and searching the world over for companies to buy.

There’s one place it’s not looking, however, and that’s five miles north along Interstate 385, to the Simpsonville headquarters of one of its competitors, Kemet Corp.

Kurt Cummings, AVX’s chief financial officer, said AVX and Kemet are the world’s top two manufacturers of tantalum capacitors, electronic components that go in virtually everything with a circuit board. Trying to combine the two companies would likely raise anti-trust issues, he said.

“If we wanted to buy [Kemet], we would have bought it by now,” Cummings told UBJ. “We’re not interested.”

What AVX is interested in, he said, is growing by acquisition, and it’s eyeing potential acquisition targets in the electronics industry with complementary technology.

Kurt Cummings
Kurt Cummings

“I was in Taiwan a couple of months ago talking to one company, going to Europe next week to talk to another company,” Cummings said. “So we want it to happen. We just have to find the right partner.”

Financing an acquisition shouldn’t be a problem for AVX, which has no debt and $1.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents or short-term securities, according to Cummings.

He said all but about $200 million of the $1.1 billion is held by AVX subsidiaries in Europe and Asia, and AVX would incur a tax liability between 12 to 14 percent if it tried to bring the money to the United States.

If AVX bought a U.S. company, Cummings said, it might consider consolidating the acquired company’s manufacturing to its 130-acre complex along I-385 in Fountain Inn, where it employs about 350 people at its global headquarters, its North American warehouse and in limited research and manufacturing.

The Fountain Inn complex is one of 20 AVX locations in 11 countries.

Worldwide, the company employs more than 10,000 people and makes billions of capacitors every year, most of them tiny. They go in everything from laptop computers and smartphones to cars and planes, wind turbines, medical devices, locomotives and military satellites.

AVX sells the capacitors to original equipment makers such as Samsung, contract manufacturers such as Benchmark Electronics and distributors of electronic components such as Avnet and Arrow Electronics.

AVX also makes electronic connectors, mostly for the auto industry, and resells connectors and capacitors made by Kyocera Corp., a Japanese company that owns 72 percent of AVX.

AVX was based in Myrtle Beach until 2010, when it was invited to move its headquarters to the Fountain Inn complex by Kyocera, which had acquired the complex when it bought another Japanese company, Mita, out of bankruptcy.

AVX plans to spend about $15 million improving the complex’s infrastructure over a four-year period, Cummings said.

Among the improvements so far is 80,000 square feet of additional space, for a total of 380,000, a “clean room” assembly line and a research lab, said Ken Brown, the facility’s general manager.

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