M&A moves

Houston private equity firm acquires German magnetic materials producer

In M&A news, a decarbonization-focused firm has acquired only producer in the Western Hemisphere of electric-vehicle-grade permanent magnets. Photo via arapartners.com

Houston-based private equity firm Ara Partners has purchased Germany’s Vacuumschmelze (VAC), a producer of magnetic materials for products such as electric vehicles, from funds overseen by asset manager Apollo. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

VAC is the only producer in the Western Hemisphere of electric-vehicle-grade permanent magnets. It also makes magnetic materials for the industrial, aerospace, medical, and renewable energy sectors.

Earlier this year, VAC announced a deal with automotive giant General Motors to build a North American factory for the production of magnets for the electric motors of GM-made EVs. The factory, set to open in 2025, will initially product enough magnets to supply 1 million EVs each year. The magnets will be made of alloys of rare-earth elements.

GM forecasts it will manufacture 1 million EVs per year in North America by 2025.

“We believe the demand for VAC’s differentiated, customized products will continue to grow rapidly as companies around the world decarbonize their industrial processes and the electrification of mobility advances, and we look forward to leveraging our expertise to further enable VAC’s continued success,” Tuan Tran, a partner at Ara Partners, says in a news release.

Ara Partners specializes in investments in the decarbonization sector.

Founded in 1923, VAC was owned by technology conglomerate Siemens for more than 65 years. Ohio’s OM Group acquired VAC in 2011. Four years later, Apollo purchased OM Group for more than $1 billion, putting VAC in the hands of the asset manager.

As of June 30, Ara Partners had about $4.4 billion in assets under management, while Apollo had $617 billion in assets under management.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

ACCEL has opened applications for next year. Photo via Getty Images

Calling all cleantech startups founded by innovators of color — an inclusive accelerator program is now accepting applications.

Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL, has opened applications for it's second cohort. The program — from Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space — provides access to funding, networking connections, incubation space, mentorship, resources, and opportunities for energy tech founders of color for a year.

“ACCEL is one of the most impactful, meaningful programs we’ve run to date,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. “We are eager to expand upon the great success and momentum of year one, and to welcome another incredible cohort of BIPOC-led startups that are developing much-needed climatetech solutions. We’re equally committed to helping these companies accelerate and deploy their solutions, while also helping to build a more diverse, inclusive climatetech workforce—ACCEL sits at the nexus of those two critical efforts.”

The program, supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, accelerated six startups this year — Active Surfaces, DrinKicks, EarthBond, florrent, frakktal, and SpadXTech.

“The ACCEL Program directly aligns with our mission to ensure that climatetech jobs and wealth creation opportunities are available to all residents of the Commonwealth,” Emily Reichert, CEO at MassCEC and former CEO at Greentown, says in the release. “We are excited to see the second round of this important program, with our Equity Workforce Fund support fostering a partnership between Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space aimed at accelerating the growth of minority and women business enterprises in Massachusetts.”

ACCEL, which doles out $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding to each participant, is also supported by Boston-based Barr Foundation and provides programming from VentureWell, a nonprofit with expertise in climatetech.

“Through our partnership with Greentown and VentureWell, we are able to put our respective strengths together to create an ambitious program to bolster founders of color in climatetech and propel innovations that benefit communities most impacted by climate change,” Kerry Bowie, executive director and president of Browning the Green Space, says in the release. “Opening applications for Year 2 of ACCEL is an important milestone in strengthening critical support for traditionally excluded entrepreneurs in our communities.”

Applications for ACCEL are open until January 5, 2024. While entrepreneurs from anywhere can apply, preference will be given to applicants in Greater Boston and Greater Houston, where Greentown’s incubators are located.

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