German lightweight wheel producer, BBS, has been sold to a Belgian firm, Punch International.

BBS has been in receivership since 7 February. Up to 35 private investors and suppliers were interested in acquiring the company, leading to a ‘beauty contest’ to find the next owner of the company. Rothschild merchant bank helped administrators select a buyer.

Punch International said that a number of disadvantageous strategic choices led to BBS’s bankruptcy. “BBS decided in particular to expand its field of action from the profitable premium segment for exclusive vehicles to the medium-sized vehicles characterised by high volumes but low margins. The opening of establishments in Italy and China, and the accompanying start-up problems caused considerable losses.”

In the future, Punch wants BBS to focus solely on the profitable premium segment again. Punch expects BBS to make a turnover contribution of at least EUR60m for financial year 2007. BBS is expected to make a positive contribution to the group’s net profit from the outset of the takeover.

Last year Punch acquired a continuously variable transmission (CVT) plant from ZF in Belgium. It also acquired technology for producing the transmissions and agreed to collaborate with ZF to develop the CVT technology for application in hybrid passenger cars.

Guido Dumarey, CEO of Punch, says: “We are very satisfied because this acquisition is of great strategic importance. Punch has expanded its clientele to include large OEMs, and a new milestone is on the way with the construction of a hybrid car. In the CVT of Punch Powertrain, we already have the most suitable transmission while BBS’s patented air-inside-technology wheels are ideally suited for in-wheel electric motors which, because they save weight and space, are in turn ideal for integration in a hybrid vehicle.”

Punch is forecasting to generate a turnover of EUR385m this year and a return on equity of at least 15%. Once BBS will be contributing for a full year, group revenues will grow to about EUR500m.

BBS has two plants in Germany, in Schiltach and Herbolzheim. Punch will acquire both plants but it will not take over all 850 employees. Dpa-AFX news said that the new owner is still negotiating with the works council and the unions about how many jobs will be carried over to the new company. Punch will not acquire BBS plants in Italy or China.