Freudenberg, Helix buy half of VistaMed

By Brad Dawson

Rubber & Plastics News Staff

WEINHEIM, Germany—Freudenberg & Co. K.G. and its subsidiary Helix Medical Europe K.G. have purchased a 50-percent share of VistaMed Ltd., an Irish manufacturer of medical device components.

The purchase further expands the reach of Freudenberg and its global affiliates into the health care market. The company has made several global acquisitions over the past six years—including three notable U.S.-based transactions—to bolster its presence in the growing medical industry.

As a result of this recent deal, VistaMed will continue to do business with its management and employee base intact and will work with Helix Medical as a joint venture partner, offering customers the combined capabilities and global service organization of both companies, said Jorg Schneewind, president and CEO of Helix Medical L.L.C., a sister company to Helix Medical Europe.

Financial details of the transaction—completed April 1—were not disclosed. The shares were purchased from Patrick Mulholland, VistaMed majority owner and managing director, plus other shareholders, Schneewind said.

The buy-in was a good fit for Helix Medical Europe because of VistaMed’s prowess in the development and production of specialty catheters, an area in which Helix didn’t yet have a core focus, he said. VistaMed offers a broad range of catheter technologies—from design concept to product development to volume manufacturing.

The company also provides tight-tolerance custom extrusion of thermoplastic elastomers, com¼- plex medical tubing systems and blow-molding capabilities. VistaMed produces parts under clean room conditions for a variety of medical applications, including ca¼theters for minimally invasive surgical pro¼ce¼dures and endoscopic components.

Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland-based VistaMed has two production plants in the country—at Carrick-on-Shannon and Rooskey—Schneewind said. The Rooskey site houses the company’s extrusion operation, while the headquarters facility is the base for management, research and development, and catheter development and manufacturing.

Founded in 1997, VistaMed employs 85 between its two facilities, he said. The firm primarily serves the European Union and U.S. markets but also has some customers in other regions in the world.

The formation of the Vista/Helix partnership follows the unveiling of Helix Medical Europe’s first manufacturing plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany, earlier this year. That 55,000-sq.-ft. unit houses molding and close-tolerance extrusion operations for European medical customers.

Freudenberg-NOK G.P.—a joint venture of Weinheim-based Freudenberg and NOK Corp. of Japan—started the German firm’s push into the medical sector with its purchase of Jenline Industries Ltd.’s Gloucester, Mass., location in 2004.

Acquisitions of Helix Medical Inc.’s Carpinteria, Calif., site in 2006 and APEC plants in Baldwin Park, Calif., and Shenzhen, China, in 2008 followed, and all the operations were placed under the Helix Medical L.L.C. umbrella, based in Carpinteria.

Eventually, the Helix business will establish a Helix Medical Asia subsidiary that will take over business currently within its APEC Asia unit based in China, Schneewind said.

The Helix Medical subsidiaries’ capabilities include silicone and thermoplastic molding, extrusion, assembly and packaging.

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