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Viasystems to be purchased by giant high-tech rival

Forest Grove’s largest employer has changed hands again.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday reported that Viasystems will be purchased by TTM Technologies for $927 million in cash, stock and assumed debt.

Viasystems, based in St. Louis, bought Forest Grove’s Merix Corp five years ago. The company, which makes printed circuit boards at its Forest Grove plant, employs 900, according to the City of Forest Grove.

TTM Technologies, a maker of circuit boards used in electronic devices, will pay more than $250 million in cash and stock for its smaller rival, according to the Journal. Viasystems has a market cap of $245 million. It went bankrupt in 2002, emerged a year later, then went public via a backdoor listing in 2009, when it bought Merix Corp.

Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TTM is majority-owned by two private-equity firms.

TTM will have 30,000 employees in 28 factories around the world.

“This combination creates an industry leader with the ability to deliver expanded capabilities from a broad global footprint to service more customers and end markets,” TTM chief executive Tom Edman said in a statement. “In one step, we will accelerate our strategy to diversify our business and also reduce the impact of seasonality inherent in the cellular phone end market.”

TTM wants to make at least $25 million in cuts in the first year. It is borrowing the asking price from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays bank.

When Viasystems bought Merix in October 2009 in the depths of the recession, it shook the local business community, which feared for the future of its home-grown high-tech company, a 1994-spinoff of Tektronix.

At the time, Merix’s then-CEO Michael Burger did his best to allay those fears, telling shareholders that “we believe the merger will have little or no change on the Forest Grove manufacturing site.” Berger’s words largely held true.

No such assurance has come since Sunday’s disclosure of the new sale, but Viasystems CEO David M. Sindelar said in a statement the deal is “an excellent opportunity to realize value for our shareholders and creates new opportunities for our customers and employees.”

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