Takata’s new Chinese owner emerges as car-safety player
Wang Jianfeng has been on an epic acquisition tear over the past decade, assembling a formidable auto parts empire in China with $4 billion in revenue.
Now, the founder and chairman of Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp., is about to pull off his biggest deal yet: a $1.59 billion takeover of Takata Corp., the troubled air-bag maker that filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday and is in the midst of the largest auto recall in history.
Ningbo Joyson is acquiring Takata’s assets through its wholly owned U.S. air-bag maker Key Safety Systems Inc, which it acquired last year for $920 million. Key Safety is based in Sterling Heights.
The deal is structured to shield Key Safety from shouldering the cost of Takata’s projected 100-million unit recall of faulty air-bag inflators linked to at least 17 deaths. The inflator business will stay with Takata as will the financial responsibility for the recall, which will cost an estimated $9 billion, according to Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Jefferies Group LLC.
The Takata acquisition could make Wang, 46, the owner of the world’s second-biggest safety parts supplier, trailing only Sweden’s Autoliv Inc. “Takata is a good company with strong factories and technologies, but it has made mistakes,” Wang told Bloomberg in April in Shanghai. “There’s potential for us to become one of the top two players in auto safety.”
Wang studied art in college and earned an executive MBA degree at Peking University. He worked briefly at a local export and import company in early 1990s before running a family-owned parts maker for five years and doing a stint with TRW Automotive Inc.’s China operation.
The Chinese executive founded Ningbo Joyson in 2004 to supply parts including control, air-intake and windscreen-washer systems, and counts Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. among its customers.
Wang bought the shell of a loss-making state-owned textile company in China’s rust-belt northeast in 2011 and went public, injecting its auto parts business into the listed company. Wang’s family owns the NB Joyson Invest Holding Co., the largest shareholder of Shanghai-traded Ningbo Joyson.
This decade Wang has spent $1.6 billion acquiring companies such as Preh GmbH, IMA Automation Amberg GmbH and Quin GmbH in Germany, and Evana Automation in the U.S. Along with announcing the acquisition of Key Safety in February 2016, Joyson also took over the automotive division of Germany’s TechniSat Digital GmbH to develop car connectivity, infotainment and navigation systems.
Under Wang, the revenue of Preh GmbH, a German supplier of products including electronic control units, more than tripled to $1.3 billion last year from 2010.
In the U.S., Wang has kept Key Safety’s strategy and management in place and, ironically, has benefited from Takata’s air bag troubles. Key Safety, whose revenue has been growing at an above-industry-average 20 percent even before Takata’s crisis, has received orders of more than $4 billion last year alone, some of which were from Takata’s former clients, said Ningbo Joyson CEO Tang Yuxin.
Wang is betting big on autonomous driving, auto safety and electric cars. He plans to integrate Preh’s connectivity, telematics and human machine interface technologies with Key Safety’s active and passive safety products.