Hillenbrand’s Secret to Survival: Diversification

January 20, 2014
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Three years ago, executives at the century-old Batesville Casket Co. came to a realization facing many companies in today’s economy.

Business wasn’t growing. The casket-making company, founded in 1906, could either struggle through flat or declining sales as more people turned toward cremations, or it could change.

So parent company Hillenbrand Inc., embarked on a series of acquisitions that have diversified products and raised revenues from $650 million in 2009 to nearly $1.6 billion in 2013. Hillenbrand projects 9 percent growth this year to $1.7 billion.

Hillenbrand is now involved in plastics, processed food, chemicals, potash, industrial minerals, coal mining, natural gas and an assortment of other fields.

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“As we have looked to diversity,” said new president and chief executive Joe Raver, “we really have focused a lot on the growth of the global middle class. Almost all of the business, if you look at the end market — plastics, energy, processed food — that growth is based on big global trends.”

Raver was named CEO in September 2013, after working 18 years in various administrative positions. He replaced retiring CEO Ken Camp, who guided Hillenbrand through its diversification efforts.

Hillenbrand bought New Jersey-based K-Tron in April 2008. Hillenbrand bought Ohio-based Rotex in April 2010. Hillenbrand bought Germany-based Coperion in December 2011. The three companies make and sell business-to-business products and perform services for a variety of industries.

Raver plans to keep the company on the path set by Camp. Hillenbrand has been able to aggressively buy companies without mounting unsustainable debt by leveraging cash flows from the core Batesville Casket Co. business.

“We will continue to buy,” Raver said, “and we will continue to build our Batesvile business. This is a pretty dynamic transformation, and we are not done. We still have a lot of room to grow.”

The majority of stock analysts list Batesville, listed as HI on the New York Stock Exchange, as a buy.

Read full article from IndyStar.com

Photo provided by Austin Bewsey Studios

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