Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) has confirmed that it sent Visteon Corporation (OTC: VSTNQ) a letter late last week that said it remains interested in pursuing its rejected proposal to buy some of the bankrupt company’s assets. It gave no further details on how it would enhance the $1.25 billion cash bid for Visteon’s electronic and interior businesses, leaving the climate control operation behind.
The businesses JCI wants generated more than $4 billion in sales during 2009, the worst automotive market in decades. In 2009, Visteon had product sales of $6.42 billion – down $2.7 billion from the prior year. There clearly is upside potential for the eventual owner.
The latest development complicates what is already a long running bankruptcy that was filed under Chapter 11 in May of 2009. Shareholders and bondholders are currently vying to see who will control the plan that will let Visteon emerge from receivership. At stake is ownership of the assets, including the ones that JCI wants to buy – or steal, depending on your point of view.
It also could be a business tactic since Johnson Controls is a direct competitor that stands to benefit by introducing delay or complexity into the Visteon reorganization process.
Visteon, the former Ford Motor Company parts maker, has used bankruptcy to improve its balance sheet, and its first-quarter profit rose to $233 million from $2 million a year earlier. The businesses in question are largely based in China, now the world’s largest auto market.
A Ford spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the JCI Visteon issue.
“JCI is a strong company and one of our long-term suppliers. At the same time, Visteon and Ford have a long business relationship. We have been, and remain, supportive of Visteon as it works through its bankruptcy restructuring process,” the spokesperson said.
“Whatever happens, Ford is going to want to make sure that Visteon remains viable, and at some point will make its views known to the court,” said Joe Phillippi of the AutoTrends consultancy.