Companies Interested in Bobcat, Parent Company Says

Mon July 09, 2007 - National Edition
CEG



By James MacPherson

Associated Press Writer

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) Bobcat Co. has several potential buyers, a month after the equipment manufacturer was put on the block, a spokesman for its parent company said.

Bermuda-based Ingersoll Rand Co. Ltd. announced in May that it is looking into the possible sale or spin-off of North Dakota-based Bobcat, and construction-related businesses that no longer fit the company’s long-term plans.

Ingersoll Rand on June 22 completed 10 days of “management presentations” shopping Bobcat to prospective buyers, said Paul Dickard, a company spokesman in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Dickard declined to say how many interested companies showed up at the presentations but said, “there certainly is an interest.”

Gov. John Hoeven said he has stayed in close contact with Ingersoll-Rand Chief Executive Officer Herb Henkel and Bobcat Chief Executive Officer Richard Pedtke about the sale, and the importance of the keeping — and expanding — the company in North Dakota.

“They’ve told me there is a lot of interest in Bobcat and feel the sale should go well,” Hoeven said. “They will likely receive an offer in late July or August, but certainly this summer.”

Hoeven said he’s been told a sale could be finalized by the end of the year.

“I know there are number of companies very interested and looking at Bobcat,” Hoeven said. “But they have not been disclosed to me.”

An analyst with the investment banking firm Bear Stearns Cos. valued Bobcat at $3.2 billion — a number Dickard called speculative. Ann Duigan also said in a June 18 note to investors that Ingersoll Rand’s stock was undervalued and the company could be “an attractive buyout target.” Shares of Ingersoll Rand then hit a 52-week high.

West Fargo-based Bobcat, known for its skid steer loaders, employs more than 2,600 people in North Dakota. It has plants in Bismarck and in Gwinner, in southeastern North Dakota, that make machinery for light construction. Bobcat also has operations in the Czech Republic and China.

Ingersoll Rand has long been known as a heavy-equipment manufacturer, but it also builds such things as refrigeration equipment, locks, tools, air compressors and golf carts.

Slumping North American markets and a drop in shipments to distributors caused Bobcat revenue to drop, the company said.

Ingersoll Rand has said it would spin-off Bobcat to its shareholders if the company did not garner an acceptable offer. The company said it expects to make a decision on Bobcat sometime this year.

Bobcat began 60 years ago as Melroe Manufacturing, making a skid steer loader to clean turkey barns in southeastern North Dakota. Ingersoll Rand bought Bobcat in 1995, from Clark Equipment Co.

Ingersoll Rand shares fell 76 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $54.97 on June 25.