Valmont Industries, which employs about 2,000 people in the Omaha area, said it has sold a South African unit that is the largest global producer of manganese, an element used in steelmaking, disposable batteries and aluminum alloys.
Bilston Investments Proprietary Ltd. was sold for $30 million to the firm’s other owners who already held a majority share, said Terry McClain, chief financial officer of Omaha-based Valmont.
The Bilston Investments unit sold by Valmont owned 49 percent of Manganese Metal Co., which bills itself as the world’s largest producer of manganese, with annual production of about 30,000 tons.
Manganese prices have fallen about 11 percent in the past year, to about $2,400 per ton, according to industry researcher www.mineralprices.com.
Valmont, one of the world’s largest makers of utility poles and agricultural irrigation systems, acquired Bilston as part of the in 2010 purchase of UK-based Delta Plc for $430 million.
Still part of Valmont from the Delta acquisition are businesses in Europe, Australia and Asia that apply protective coatings to steel and produce utility poles and road-safety barriers, McClain said.
Valmont said it expects to break-even on the mining unit sale, with deferred tax benefits worth about $3 million available this year.
The South African mining unit, Valmont said, contributed about $5.1 million of net income in 2012. Valmont, employer of about 9,500 people on five continents, had a 2012 profit of $234 million on sales of $3 billion.
Valmont employs about 55 people at the corporate headquarters off West Dodge Road near Boys Town. Another 1,650 work at a plant in Valley, with another 400 or so at plants in McCook and West Point, CFO McClain said.
McClain said Valmont is still bullish on manganese, just not the sort produced by the South African unit. That company produced manganese most suitable for steelmaking, he said.
Valmont remains, McClain said, the majority owner of Delta EMD, a publicly traded company in South Africa that produces manganese used in the manufacturing of disposable batteries.