Reptron electronics has buyer

By Scott Barancik
Published December 20, 2006

Reptron Electronics, a Tampa manufacturer that began a downward slide in 2001 and never recovered, is being acquired by an Indiana company for about $50-million.

Kimball Electronics Group will pay 68 cents per share for Reptron's stock, retire $30-million of its bonds and pay off roughly $16-million of other debts. The Jasper-based maker of electronics components for automotive parts is particularly interested in Reptron's medical business, which includes making and assembling such devices as CAT scans and defibrillators.

Reptron president and chief executive Paul Plante said the bid was unsolicited but warmly received. "I don't know of a better company that Reptron could be combining with," he said, citing Kimball's financial strength, global footprint and corporate culture.

Finances have not been a strong suit for Reptron, a onetime bay area darling that relocated here in the mid 1980s and built a 150,000-square-foot headquarters and factory on Reptron Boulevard. It lost 42 cents per share in 2004, the year it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and $2.93 per share in 2005. Its stock price was down 73 cents through Sept. 30. Because of its heavy debt load and failure to expand revenues, the company is surviving largely on a line of credit.

In that light, the Kimball acquisition may be something of a blessing for Reptron's shareholders, bondholders and roughly 1,000 employees, including about 400 factory workers and 50 headquarters staffers in Tampa.

Some shareholders might balk at the 68-cent-per-share buyout price, given that Reptron's stock closed at 66 cents per share the day before the deal was announced. Bondholders, meanwhile, will receive just $875 for every $1,000 in face value.

But Plante said Reptron's bonds have been discounted as much as 40 percent in the past year, and he added that the stock offer represented a 28 percent premium over its three-month average price.

Reptron is the latest in a string of Tampa Bay area companies to hand its reins to an out-of-state buyer. Checkers Drive-In Restaurants was acquired by a New York equity fund this year, Outback Steakhouse parent OSI Restaurant Partners has a similar deal in the works, and Catalina Marketing is considering an unsolicited bid.

For now, Reptron's local operations seem secure.

"We don't see any significant changes right away with the Tampa facility," Kimball Electronics president Don Charron said.

Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or 727 893-8751.