Belden CDT Inc.

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Belden CDT Inc.

7701 Forsyth Boulevard, Suite 800
St. Louis, Missouri 63105
Telephone: (314) 854-8000
Fax: (314) 854-8001
Web site:

Public Company
1902 as Belden Manufacturing Company
Employees: 6,750
Sales: $966.2 million (2004)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: BDC
NAIC: 331319 Other Aluminum Rolling and Drawing; 331422 Copper Wire (Except Mechanical) Drawing; 335921 Fiber Optic Cable Manufacturing; 331491 Nonferrous Metal (Except Copper and Aluminum) Rolling, Drawing, and Extruding

Belden CDT Inc. operates as one of the largest manufacturers of high-speed electronic cables in the United States. The company serves the electronic, electrical, and communications markets and offers wire, cable, and fiber optic products. Approximately 60 percent of sales stem from Belden CDT's North American operations, while the remaining revenues are secured in Europe and Asia. The company exited the telecommunications industry when it sold its North American communications assets in June 2004. Belden Inc. merged with Cable Design Technologies Corporation (CDT) in July of that year. The company adopted its current moniker upon completion of the deal.

Recognizing a Need in 1902

Belden was founded by Joseph C. Belden in Chicago in 1902. Belden had been working as a purchasing agent for Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company of Chicago but was finding it difficult to locate the high-quality, silk-wrapped magnetic wire needed for telephone coils. Recognizing the need for this product, Belden, then 26, decided to go into business for himself, selling shares in the company, called Belden Manufacturing Company, to 11 investors for $25,000 in start-up capital. Belden served as the company's president until 1939.

The wiring of America was just getting underway, and Belden quickly found a market for his product. However, in order to protect itself from fluctuations in demand, the company began to expand its product line. An initial foray into supply silk-wound wire frames for ladies' hats proved less successful given caprices of fashion, and Belden quickly found two new marketsthe nascent automotive and electrical appliance industriesfor the company's wire products. Belden's early commitment to quality helped the company become a leading source of wiring and cables for these industries. Early customers included Thomas Edison and Lee De Forest, creator of the radio vacuum tube. By the end of the century's first decade, the company had achieved sales of $350,000.

Belden was already establishing its reputation for innovative product development, with strong research and development efforts and a quick recognition of market opportunities. The increasing use of electricity demanded better insulation capacities, and in 1910, Belden introduced its enamel insulation, marketing under the trade name Beldenamel, which would become an industry standard and open the way for such wire refinements as fine and ultra-fine magnet wire. At the same time, Belden also introduced rubber-covered wire products. The new additions to the Belden line helped the company nearly triple its sales to $900,000 by 1913.

Belden next expanded operations to include plastic manufacturing capabilities, primarily to supply bakelite housings and other products for the electrical markets. However, the outbreak of World War I provided the company's strongest growth, as Belden supplied wire and cables for such support units as motorized transport and field communications for the war effort. The company also began receiving orders from England and Russia for enameled copper wireBelden later discovered that its products were used for developing and installing wireless radio communications, bringing the company into a new market. After the war, Belden continued to supply both the aviation and radio markets. Meanwhile, the company had a two-year backlog of orders from its domestic customers.

When commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920s, Belden's low tension cables, aerial wire, and magnet wire found strong demand. The company also began selling parts to jobbers in the radio industry, beginning the company's distribution arm. In the late 1920s, Belden entered another market with the development of a molded rubber plug. By then, orders for the company's expanded product line were outstripping its production capacity, and in 1928 the company opened its second plant, in Richmond, Indiana, which would later become the site of the company's Electronic Division. In that year, also, the company started producing for the automotive aftermarket. Four years later, Belden signed a distribution agreement with the recently formed National Automotive Parts Association.

Despite the Depression, Belden's diversified product line and its expansion into the replacement parts market helped the company continue to grow. In 1939, with sales of $4.9 million, and a net income of $378,000, the company went public, listing on the Midwest Stock Exchange. Joe Belden died in 1939; replacing him was Whipple Jacobs, who had started in the company's cost department as a temporary clerk earning $9.10 a week in 1914. Whipple led Belden into the World War II era, during which, Belden, already a major military supplier, converted much of its production to supply the war effort. Belden also began introducing new forms of wire insulation using such recently developed chemical compounds as vinyl, nylon, and neoprene, further expanding the Belden family of products with Beldure, Nylclad, Formvar, Beldfoil and other brand names. Belden also introduced the first solderable enamel compound, replacing its Beldenamel with the Celenamel trademark. During the postwar years, Belden continued to supply the electric product markets but also expanded into the new and growing fields of radar, sonar, and electronics. Whipple stepped down as president, and Charles S. Craigmile, who had started with the company as an electrical engineer in 1915, was named in his place.

Growth through the 1970s

Belden began its shift toward the television and data processing markets as these industries began their commercial growth in the 1950s. Belden's sales continued to grow steadily, and it continued to add capacity to its Chicago and Richmond plants. By 1965, the company's sales had grown to $53 million. In that year, Robert W. Hawkinson became the company's president. Hawkinson, who joined Belden in 1945 as an engineer after serving as a fighter-bomber captain in the Army Air Forces during the Second World War, would lead Belden through its next growth phase.

That era began in 1966, when Belden changed its name to Belden Corporation and built a plant in Franklin, North Carolinaits first new plant since 1938. Over the next three years, the company constructed two more plants, one in Pontotoc, Mississippi, and a 170,000-square-foot site in Jena, Louisiana. The company also went on an acquisition binge, acquiring Complete-Reading Electric Company, a distributor of electrical motor parts, in 1967. The following year, Belden acquired Southern Electric Sales Company, based in Dallas, which distributed electrical wire, insulating material, and replacement parts, and Insulation & Copper Sales, a Detroit-based distributor of magnet wire, lead wire, and associated products. Capping the expansion of Belden's distribution business, which gave the company 16 warehouse distribution centers, was the 1969 stock-swap acquisition of Electrical Specialty Company of San Francisco, adding that company's electrical wire, insulating materials, industrial plastics, and shop equipment distribution facilities. Meanwhile, Belden was also expanding its production capacity, with the acquisition of General Wire & Cable Company Ltd. of Canada and that company's two manufacturing plants. At the same time, Belden moved to consolidate its research and development operations, building the company's Technical Research Center in Geneva, Illinois. Among the products Belden developed during this period was its Duofoil brand of coaxial cables for master antenna and cable television systems.

By 1970, sales had topped $100 million, and the company began listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Helping to fuel this growth was a stepping up of its activity in the automotive aftermarket, which itself was growing rapidly with the steady increases in car sales of the period. During the 1970s, the company continued to expand its production capacity, adding a 75,000-square-foot automotive aftermarket facility to its Jena plant, while adding new plants in Dumas, Arkansas, and Monticello, Kentucky. The company also moved to improve its profits by exiting the low-margin commodity market, discontinuing production of heavy wire and closing its original Chicago plant. By 1978, the company's sales had grown to $240 million, earning profits of $8.8 million.

Reemerging in the 1990s

Belden's stock price, however, had not kept pace with its revenue growth. By 1980, the company had become the target of a hostile takeover, and Belden found refuge in a merger with Crouse-Hinds Company. The following year, when Crouse-Hinds itself became a takeover target, another white knight appeared, and Belden found itself a subsidiary of Cooper Industries. Belden served Cooper as a source of cash flow to fuel Cooper's expansion into other industries; meanwhile, Belden began positioning itself toward the international market, while also expanding heavily in the booming computer industry. In 1993, Cooper spun off Belden as an independent, publicly-traded company with annual sales of $300 million.

Company Perspectives:

Belden CDT, Inc., formed in July 2004 through the merger of Belden Inc. and Cable Design Technologies Corp., is one of the largest U.S.-based manufacturers of high-speed electronic cables and focuses on products for the specialty electronics and data networking markets, including connectivity.

Within three years, Belden would more than double its annual sales, a growth fueled in large part by sales of the company's network cable products. The company's international sales to Canada, Europe, and Latin America were also becoming a strong source of revenue, nearing 25 percent of annual sales by the mid-1990s. After moving its headquarters to St. Louis in 1994, the company prepared for a new string of acquisitions. In March 1995, Belden acquired American Elec-tric Cordsets, based in Bensenville, Illinois, adding the $24 million company to its newly formed Cord Products Division. Two months later, Belden purchased rival Pope Cable and Wire B.V., based in Venlo, the Netherlands, for $50 million, adding that company's $112 million in annual sales and strengthening Belden's position in Europe. A year later, Belden acquired the wire division of Alpha Wire Corporation, based in Elizabeth, New Jersey, further positioning Belden to achieve a strong share of the ongoing networking products boom. It also added Cowen Cable Corporation to its arsenal. Meanwhile, Belden began preparing for expansion into the growing Asian and Pacific Rim markets, while extending its Latin American reach as well. With the new market for Internet and corporate intranet products just beginning to explode in the mid-1990s, Belden's history of quickly shifting its focus to emerging technologies and markets continued to serve the company well.

Changes in the Late 1990s and Beyond

During 1998 and 1999, the company continued to focus on strengthening its Communications division. During 1999, Belden acquired Cable Systems International Inc. (CSI), the second-largest copper telephone cable manufacturer in the United States. The addition of CSI to Belden's holdings gave it a significant advantage in the growing specialty wire and cable market. Indeed, the purchase helped Belden secure a $700 million contract to provide copper telephone cable to SBC Communications for the next five-years.

While Belden's future seemed bright, an economic slowdown began plaguing the telecommunications industry in 2001. Lower demand led to falling income and revenues. Belden responded by cutting nearly 6,000 jobs. In 2002, the company purchased Cable Design Technologies' NORCOM wire and cable division. NORCOM provided telecommunications cable in Canada and the United States. A continued turndown in the industry however, forced Belden to shutter its NORCOM facility and close down manufacturing operations in Australia and Germany. During 2003, Belden's North American communications division reported an operating loss on $109.4 million. Overall, the company reported a net loss of $60.7 million for the year.

With its telecommunications arm stifling profits, Belden revamped its strategy and decided to jettison that portion of its business. Its exit from the telecommunications industry was made evident in June 2004 when the company sold its North American communications assets to Superior Essex Inc. Mean-while, Belden's CEO C. Baker Cunningham had started toying with the idea of merging with Cable Design Technologies (CDT). After meeting with CDT's CEO Fred Kuznik in November 2003, the two companies hammered out the details and announced merger plans in February 2004.

CDT had been established in 1980 as Intercole Automation Inc. and went public in 1993. The company had grown throughout its short history by acquiring many companies including Northern Telecom Ltd.'s (Nortel) communication cable and network wiring products businesses. By 2004, CDT was also struggling to shore up profits and eyed the union with Belden as a lucrative alternative to going alone in the industry.

The union was structured as a stock deal with each share of Belden stock exchanged for one share in the combined company, while two shares of CDT stock were exchanged for one share of the combined company. The merger-of-equals was completed on July 15, 2004 and created one of the largest manufacturers of high-speed electronic cables in the United States.

With five operating divisions, the newly created Belden CDT Inc. stood on much stronger ground. Its Electronics division accounted for nearly 60 percent of sales while its Networking arm secured the remaining revenues. The company expected to save $35 million within two years of the merger and immediately set plans in motion to shut down plants in England, Massachusetts, and Vermont. At first glance, the merger appeared to have paid off. Sales increased by nearly 17 percent over the previous year and the company posted net income of $15.2 million. While management was optimistic about the company's prospects, only time would tell what the future had in store for Belden CDT.

Principal Divisions

Electronics; Networking; Specialty; European Operations; West Penn Wire.

Principal Competitors

Alcatel Alsthom Compagnie Générale d'Electricité; Pirelli & C. SpA; Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd.

Key Dates:

Joseph C. Belden establishes Belden Manufacturing Company.
Belden introduces its enamel insulation, marketing it under the trade name Beldenamel.
Annual sales reach $4.9 million; the company goes public.
The company changes its name to Belden Corporation.
Sales top $100 million; Belden begins listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Cooper Industries buys Belden.
Cooper spins off Belden as an independent, publicly-traded company with annual sales of $300 million.
Belden signs a five-year $700 million deal to supply SBC Communications Inc. with copper telecommunications cable.
Belden merges with Cable Design Technologies Corporation; the company changes its name to Belden CDT Inc.

Further Reading

De Young, Garrett H., "'You Must Know Your Strengths,'" Photonics Spectra, August 1989, p. 52.

Galarza, Pablo, "Belden Inc., St. Louis, Mo., Cashing in as Technology Lifts Wire Demand," Investor's Business Daily, June 16, 1994, p. A6.

"High Operating Rates Prove Boon to Belden, Wire Maker," Barron's, August 7, 1978, p. 39.

Manor, Robert, "Local Newcomer Soars on Market," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 1994, p. 4.

Mehlman, William, "Investors Responding Slowly to Altered Belden Image," Insiders' Chronicle, April 6, 1979, p. 1.

Milligan, Brian, "Belden CDT Continues Rationalizing Plan Following Merger," Cabling Installation and Maintenance, February 2005, pp. 44-45.

Naudi, Jack, "Missouri's Belden to Sell Communications Unit to Atlanta-Based Superior Essex," Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, March 20, 2004.

Shabelman, David, "Belden, CDT to Merge," The, February 6, 2004.

"Strong Demand Puts Belden Operations in High Gear," Barron's, September 25, 1972, p. 29.

Stuenkel, Gil, "Biggest Deals of 2004: The Deal: Belden Mergers with CDT," St. Louis Business Journal, December 10, 2004, p. 26.

"Wire and Cable Maker Belden Set to String Up an Earnings Comeback," Barron's, December 15, 1969, p. 26.

Zaczkiewicz, Arthur, "Belden's Growth Strategy Pays Off," Electronic Buyers News, February 28, 2000.

                                              M.L. Cohen

                          update: Christina M. Stansell