Japan’s Sekisui Chemical has inked a deal to acquire Renton, Washington–based Aim Aerospace for $510 million from the private equity firm Liberty Hall Capital Partners.
The acquisition will give Sekisui, a thermoplastic materials maker, access to carbon fiber–reinforced composite technology. It follows similar moves by other Japanese chemical makers that see a burgeoning future in the composite-part market.
With 1,100 employees, Aim fabricates structural components, ducting, and engine casings for aerospace customers including Boeing and General Electric. The firm had sales of $179 million last year. Sekisui says it expects to complete the purchase before the end of the year.
Global demand for carbon fiber—85,000 metric tons last year—will double over the next 6 years, says consultant Daniel Pichler of CarbConsult. A lot of that fiber goes to make composite parts for planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and to lighten and strengthen electric vehicles. With Aim, Sekisui hopes for access to both aerospace and automotive markets.
Sekisui’s purchase is reminiscent of deals by other Japanese chemical companies to acquire Western composite-part makers. Toray Industries paid $1.2 billion last year to buy TenCate Advanced Composites, a supplier of carbon fiber materials for small aircraft. In 2017, Mitsubishi Chemical bought a 44% stake in CPC, an Italian auto-body carbon fiber composite maker, and Teijin spent $825 million to buy the car-composite supplier Continental Structural Plastics.