Published on January 28, 2014

CTP gearing up for growth under new owners

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (Jan. 28, 2014) — The new owner of CTP Transportation Products L.L.C. — formerly Carlisle Companies Inc.'s tire, wheel and belting business — is focused on growing the operation significantly.

"We want to be a billion dollar company," said Kevin Forster, CTP's president and CEO. "We're just under $800 million now, and we feel like we can grow to a billion dollars."

Carlisle Companies Inc. completed the sale of CTP on Dec. 31 to private equity firm American Industrial Partners for $375 million.

The CTP unit comprises Carlisle Tire & Wheel — which makes distributes bias-ply and radial trailer and small off-road tires, stamped and roll-formed steel wheels, and tire and wheel assemblies to non-automotive customers — and its power transmission belting operations, producing and selling transmission belts and related components.

CTP Transportation Products L.L.C.
Kevin Forster, president and CEO, CTP Transportation Products L.L.C.

New York-based AIP describes itself as a middle-market private-equity firm that invests in North American-based industrial businesses serving domestic and global markets. In business since 1989, AIP manages a portfolio totaling more than $1 billion in committed capital, including Allied Specialty Vehicles and Heil Traler International Co.

CTP produces tires at plants in Clinton and Jackson, Tenn., and Meizhou, China; wheels in Aiken, S.C., and Ontario, Calif.; and belts in Fort Scott, Kan., and Springfield, Mo. The unit also consists of 10 distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada, along with ones in Roosendaal, Netherlands, and Meizhou, China.

The business, headquartered in Franklin, will continue to offer products under the Carlisle brand name.

Mr. Forster said he is not concerned about profit margins, even though that was a key reason Carlisle cited in putting CTP on the market in the first place.

Carlisle Chairman, CEO and President David Roberts outlined a standard earnings margin of 15 percent for Carlisle business units during a conference call in July 2013. CTP reported a 6.7 earnings margin in 2012, prompting Mr. Roberts to tell investors at that time that CTP no longer was "core to Carlisle's growth strategy."

CTP reported 2012 sales of $778 million and $52.4 million in operating income. The tire and wheel business represented an estimated $375 million to $400 million of the revenue total. Mr. Forster said the margins are acceptable, but the firm feels like it can expand them over the next few years.

CTP Transportation Products L.L.C.
CTP markets a half-dozen lines of ATV/UTV tires, including the Trail Wolf, Mud Wolf, Black Rock, Badlands and Stryker names.

In doing so, Mr. Forster said AIP will make significant investments focusing on manufacturing systems. He said the firm plans on investing in new manufacturing technology for lean production and add more automation in its wheel plants.

"I think AIP has folks who understand manufacturing," Mr. Forster said. "They've got operations specialists inside their group. I think their perception is this company is pretty well run, and they want to make investments to improve and grow the business.

"Carlisle had invested more to 'right size' the business. Now under AIP, we can invest for growth."

Justin Fish, a partner with AIP, said of CTP: "Working alongside an exceptional management team and talented collection of employees, we plan to drive operational enhancements that will allow CTP to more efficiently and effectively serve the needs of our global customers."

Divesting the tire business separated Carlisle from its original business purpose. The company was founded in 1917 in Carlisle, Pa., as a tube producer.

Growing time

Mr. Forster said CTP is in a position to focus on growth after Carlisle spent the last few years cutting costs. The firm reduced its footprint by closing some plants and distribution centers.

CTP Transportation Products L.L.C. photo
CTP Transportation Products also makes and markets several lines of wheels, including the iconic 'Cragar' line of chrome performance wheels.

From 2010 through last year, Carlisle consolidated some of CTP's manufacturing in the U.S. The company spent $65 million to refurbish and convert a former Whirlpool Corp. factory into its Jackson tire plant. It relocated tire production from its plant in Carlisle, Pa., to the Jackson site and closed the Pennsylvania facility at year-end 2010.

It also moved tire production to its Jackson facility from factories in Buji, China, and Bowden, Ga., the latter of which was destroyed by fire in 2008.

Carlisle later closed the Buji plant, moving Chinese tire production to the Meizhou factory and belt manufacturing back to factories in Kansas and Missouri.

During that span, the firm also consolidated 19 distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada to nine — opening a center in McDonough, Ga., in the process — and merged its three wheel plants in California into one.

"I think we've got the footprint right now," Mr. Forster said. "We're basically investing for growth. We're looking for improved efficiencies and growth of the business."

He sees growth opportunities on both sides of CTP's portfolio with opportunities mainly in the agricultural, construction and original equipment manufacturer sides of the tire business.

The construction market is one of the larger markets. Mr. Forster said the firm has a small share in this segment and believes CTP can increase it. He also sees opportunities in the speed trailer market for both tires and wheels despite CTP having a significant section of that market.

In the ag market, for example, CTP offers bias-ply drive axle tires in rim diameters up to 38 inches in its Farm Specialist line. In the construction sector, CTP has develped a "Guard Dog" line of tires in the premium skid-steer market to go with its Trac Chief line of standard skid-steer tires.

On the belt side, Forster said the company sees growth opportunities in the power sport segment and industrial distribution.

Stability at the top

Mr. Forster, president and CEO of CTP since August 2011, said there are no plans to change CTP's leadership and that the management team transferred with the business.

Mr. Forster started with Carlisle in 1990 when it acquired the off-highway brake and friction business from BF Goodrich Co. He ran that company until he was promoted to president of Carlisle Asia-Pacific for six years.

He returned to the U.S. in 2002 as vice president of corporate development until 2008. In 2009, he returned to his position as president of Asia-Pacific before assuming his current role.

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Chris Sweeney is a reporter with Rubber & Plastics News, a sister publication of Tire Business.

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