Johnson Controls Acquires Air Distribution for $1.6B

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Johnson Controls (JCI) said Wednesday it has a deal in place to acquire private equity-owned Air Distribution Technologies for $1.6 billion, continuing the company's shift away from auto parts and toward building controls.

Dallas-based Air Distribution, which is owned by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, produces a range of air ventilation and distribution systems for residential and commercial structures. The company's products include grilles, registers and diffusers, terminal units, and fire and smoke dampers and fans.

Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls in recent years has been pivoting away from automotive and back toward its roots as a maker of building products. The company sold its automotive electronics unit to Visteon (VC) earlier this year for $265 million, and last year sold its HomeLink business, which connects automobiles to garage door openers, security systems and related home products, to GenTex (GNTX) for $700 million.

Johnson Controls in December agreed to take a 60% stake in the global air conditioning and cooling business of Japan's Hitachi, with plans to launch a global joint venture this year to combine Hitachi's operations with its global building services unit.

Company chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli in a statement said that the purchase of Air Distribution will build on Johnson Controls' buildings portfolio.

"This investment expands Johnson Controls' position in the buildings space with additional products that are complementary to our existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning offerings," Molinaroli said. "It reflects our stated commitment to invest in the buildings business as a growth platform and further enhances our offerings and channels."

CPPIB acquired Air Distribution from British engineering firm Tomkins in 2012 for $1.1 billion. The Toronto-based asset manager funded the deal with about $500 million in equity, suggesting CPPIB expects to receive proceeds of about $1 billion from the sale to Johnson Controls.

CPPIB already owned Tomkins along with Onex Corp., but said it saw potential for the Air Distribution business as a standalone.

"We have developed a close partnership with the management team of Air Distribution," CPPIB senior vice president Andre Bourbonnais said. "It was a difficult decision to sell the business and we wish the Air Distribution team continued success."

Johnson Controls said it expects to close the deal by the end of July. The company was advised by Goldman Sachs (GS) and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

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