When we first met the founders and owners of Accel AB and Accel Elektronika UAB during the fall 2011 we discussed a traditional sales process du to the fact that the owners had passed the retirement age. The owners also realized that the company grew and got so big that it was difficult to continue to grow and develop without access to the muscles of a larger group.
ACCEL Group is a leading manufacturer and supplier of electrical and electromechanical products and components for the automotive industry, globally. The company was founded by Sten Nilsson and Gintas Maldziunas in 1987 with a turnover of about 200 MSEK and has 400 employees. The products are marketed through four main product groups: sun sensors, belt switches, sensors for detecting water in fuel and controls. Since 1994, the products are manufactured in two production plants in Lithuania.
Tier 1 supplier in the global automotive industry
After learning about the products and customer structure, we quickly realized that the right buyer for this global company was probably someone who, like ACCEL, was a so-called Tier 1 supplier in the global automotive industry and thus delivered directly to OEMs such as car maker GM who was a major customer of ACCEL. When we charted how the industry was structured, we began to focus on Tier 1 suppliers focusing on components within electronics, mechatronics, control, sensors and control. The countries that we focused mostly on were countries that traditionally are known to have major car manufacturing, such as England, the United States, China, France and Germany. In order to properly reach the Chinese market, we also translated our market material to Mandarin.
Contact with a fuse manufacturer
We got in contact with Littelfuse Inc., a US Nasdaq listed company with focused on electronics, fuses and control. They had just made a decision to invest in a company focused on sensors. This would be a new complementary business area within their automotive division. Littelfuse, like ACCEL, is a very engineering and technology-focused company. It was fun to see that Littelfuse was so interested in ACCEL’s product portfolio and felt at home with the company’s customers, who in most cases already were customers of Littelfuse.
Engineer delegations to Kaunas
After various company visits and interviews of leading people in ACCEL in Kaunas, Lithuania, Littelfuse found that ACCEL was just the platform investment thatthey were looking for. They were immensely interested in the technology and patents behind ACCEL’s products. It was also fun to see that Littelfuse, who previously had only low cost manufacturing in Mexico and China realized that it could also have qualified manufacturing at lower cost within Europe’s borders.
Information to 400 employees
When the transaction was completed in May 2012, the only thing left to do was to inform the staff members who had no knowledge of the deal. This occurred infront of 400 employees in a large ballroom in central Kaunas. The founders and owners explained why they had chosen to sell and we as transaction advisors told them about we found Littelfuse and why they would be worthy owners and why they would be able to take the company to the next level.