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Solar Acquisition Paying Off for Powertool Giant Hilti

In taking over New Mexico solar parts manufacturer Unirac, tool powerhouse Hilti has become a sudden competitor in the clean energy economy.

By Maria Gallucci

Jan 24, 2011

Bullard noted similar deals that took place recently, including the acquisition of , a tracking technology and PV products manufacturer, by thin-film solar giant last week for an undisclosed sum, as well as last September's $305 million purchase of San Francisco-based solar power developer by , the Japanese electronics manufacturer.

Acquisition is Boon for Unirac, Too

Hilti, which has its North American headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., employs about 20,000 people in 120 countries and boasts annual sales in the $4 to $5 billion range, ranking it among other big tool producers like , a fortune 500 firm.

Its North American push into solar was well timed.

An by Bloomberg analysts predicted that the U.S. could grow its current 1.4 GW of installed solar capacity to 44 GW by 2020, with a 34 percent annual growth rate to 30 GW in PV alone.

The acquisition has also been a boon for Unirac, according to the company, which still operates under its own logo and leadership. It doubled its revenue in 2010, continuing its year-over-year growth rate of more than 60 percent in the past five years, said Unirac CEO and President Doug May, who did not disclose revenue figures.

"We intend to continue on the extremely strong growth path we are on right now. Bottom line, Unirac intends to be a big leader in this market, and it's a very big market," May told SolveClimate News.

May said that since joining the Hilti Group, Unirac has been able to meet rising demand for its products by tapping Hilti's broad international market and professional contractor client base, its large R&D department for future projects and, perhaps most notably, by creating more jobs.

Green Jobs Growth 

Unirac grew from a staff of three people in 1998 to 125 employees in 2010. This year's operating plan calls for a continued increase in the corporate headcount, according to May, who said he considers the company to be part of national economic recovery efforts to boost employment through the clean energy manufacturing sector.

"Unirac is creating new U.S. jobs every year and more than 90 percent of our supply chain is U.S. based," May said.

Susie Wellendorf, communications director for Hilti North America, said that Hilti expects to reach sales of $1 billion by 2015 in its new business areas, including conventional and renewable energy and drilling solutions for the mining sector, although she said the company had no specific plans to acquire or invest in other greentech firms.

"Hilti's overall growth strategy focuses on the long-term development of the company," she said. "The Unirac acquisition fits into this strategy very well because we see several good opportunities for long term-growth in this area of business."

Photo: unirac.com

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