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Agco Corporation Business Information, Profile, and History

allis company equipment million

4205 River Green Parkway
Duluth, Georgia 30096-2568
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives:

AGCO is a publicly held corporation focused on the global distribution of farm equipment through independent dealers and distributors to farmers engaged in agricultural production to meet the demand to feed an ever expanding population and provide crops for new industrial applications.

The Company should be recognized throughout the world for the superior reliability of its products as measured by its market share leadership and the full service capability of its dealers in every market.

History of Agco Corporation

AGCO Corporation is the world's third largest manufacturer and distributor of tractors and other farm equipment (behind Deere & Company and CNH Global N.V.). Through its extensive network of more than 9,200 dealers serving more than 140 countries, AGCO builds and distributes products under brands that include AGCO, Ag-Chem, Challenger, Fendt, Gleaner, Hesston, Massey Ferguson, Valtra, and White, among others. AGCO has achieved explosive growth since 1990 through savvy business management and by acquiring competitors.

Although AGCO itself was not created until 1990, the company boasts a rich history of success and innovation in the farm machinery industry. In fact, AGCO is the successor to Deutz-Allis Corp., which was formed in 1985 when Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG purchased the agricultural unit of Allis-Chalmers Corp. In 1990 Klöckner spun off Deutz-Allis to a group of executives who formed AGCO. Thus, AGCO is effectively the offspring of the renowned Allis-Chalmers Corp.

Earliest Roots

The Allis-Chalmers Corp. was the progeny of an American named Edward P. Allis. Allis was born in New York in 1824 and graduated from Geneva College in 1845. After college, Allis and a friend, William Allen, moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they opened the Empire Leather Store. This venture was a natural progression for Allis because his family was already involved in the leather business in that area. Through either sheer luck or great foresight, Allis sold his interest in Empire Leather shortly before the financial panic of 1857. A number of businesses, including Empire Leather, failed during the economic downturn. For the cash-rich Allis, the disaster was an opportunity. In 1861 he used his savings to purchase the financially troubled Reliance Works at a sheriff's auction. Reliance Works was a leading manufacturer of sawmills, flour milling equipment, and castings. Before 1857, Reliance had been one of Milwaukee's largest employers with a workforce of about 75.

During the 1860s, Reliance Works of Edward P. Allis & Co., as the company was called, employed about 40 people working 55 hours per week. Allis constructed a new plant in 1868, and one year later he purchased his biggest rival, Bay State Iron Manufacturing Co. The company enjoyed strong profits until the financial panic of 1873, during which Allis went bankrupt. Chiefly because of the goodwill and faith of his creditors, Allis successfully renegotiated his debt and eventually recovered from the depression. The company remained intact, and even enjoyed a period of strong growth during much of the 1880s. By 1889, Allis employed 1,500 workers and shipped about $3 million worth of equipment annually. Allis died on April 1 of that year. He is still recognized as a pioneer in several machinery industry segments.

A number of gifted inventors and managers contributed to Allis's business efforts during the late 1800s. George M. Hinkley, for example, was a talented engineer and salesman who joined Allis in 1873. Among his most notable inventions was the bandsaw, which replaced the circular saw in many milling applications. The innovation was credited with revolutionizing the logging industry at the time, and the great demand for the saw helped the Edward P. Allis Company achieve a global presence in the machinery industry. Throughout his career, Hinkley accrued 35 patents on a wide range of sawmill machinery and accessories. Other notable Allis Company inventors included William Dixon Gray, who invented important new milling devices, and Edwin Reynolds, a pioneer in steam engine technology.

Formation of Allis-Chalmers: 1901

After Allis's death, his company continued to introduce breakthrough machines to the industry, particularly steam and pumping equipment. By the turn of the 20th century, the Edward P. Allis Company was the largest supplier of steam engines in the world. In 1901 Allis merged with another prominent machinery manufacturer, Fraser & Chalmers, to form Allis-Chalmers Company. Chalmers brought several new lines of machinery, particularly mining equipment, to the newly formed group, giving Allis-Chalmers a comprehensive product line. Further acquisitions during the next few years significantly broadened the company's product offerings, and Allis-Chalmers (the name was changed to Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in 1913) continued to enter new machinery industries throughout the coming decades. Of greatest import to the history of AGCO was Allis-Chalmers's foray into the farm tractors market. Allis-Chalmers made many significant contributions to the farm machinery industry during the 1920s and 1930s, though its participation in that burgeoning market was dwarfed by competitors such as International Harvester and John Deere.

While it trailed a few industry leaders, Allis-Chalmers was recognized as a major U.S. manufacturer of farm equipment following its acquisition of Advance-Rumely Thresher Co. in 1931. The company parlayed its legacy of innovation into substantial gains with the division, introducing the first rubber-tired tractor in 1932 and, a few years later, a machine called the "All-Crop" harvester, which eventually eliminated the grain binder and threshing machine. One of the company's most profitable early innovations was the color it chose for its tractors--orange, in contrast to the industry-standard green. That move, devised by Allis-Chalmers's clever tractor division manager, Harry Merritt, proved to be a savvy publicity gimmick. The company's distinctive bright orange tractors eventually dotted the American landscape and became an excellent advertising tool.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Allis-Chalmers's farm machinery division assumed an increasingly prominent position within the company's many product groups. Ongoing innovation, such as the landmark multiple V-belt drive (Texrope drive), which the company introduced in the 1940s, spurred steady growth of the agricultural unit. To compete more effectively within its various markets, the company reorganized into separate tractor and general machinery divisions in the 1950s and several non-farm equipment lines were gradually phased out. Simultaneously, the company moved to expand its presence in foreign markets with the creation of Allis-Chalmers International. By the early 1960s, Allis-Chalmers operated factories in Mexico, Australia, England, France, and several other countries.

Corporate Mismanagement Leading to 1985 Sale of Farm Equipment Division

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Allis-Chalmers Corp., as it was named in 1971, experienced turbulence in several of its key markets. Fortunately, demand for agricultural equipment boomed during this period, and the company was able to offset losses in other areas with sales of tractors and other farm machinery. Despite the success of the agricultural division, general mismanagement and faulty strategy resulted in huge overall losses for the company. To make matters worse, the demand for farm equipment dropped significantly in the late 1970s. Battered by years of poor planning and a sagging economy, Allis-Chalmers's executives began searching in the early 1980s for a way to bring capital into the cash-starved organization.

During this period, Allis-Chalmers's farm equipment division became so unprofitable that the company was forced to close down its tractor and combine production plants for three months in 1984. This move stunned longtime Allis-Chalmers employees, many of whom were laid off. Desperate for cash and impatient with agricultural markets, Allis-Chalmers executives reached an agreement within six months of the shutdown to sell the farm machinery division. In 1985, the Allis-Chalmers Agricultural Equipment Co., along with a related credit subsidiary, was sold to Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG (KHD) for approximately $132 million and other consideration. At the time, the division was producing about $260 million in annual sales. KHD combined the new purchase with its established Deutz Farm Equipment subsidiary to create a new company called Deutz-Allis Corp.

Between 1985 and 1989, KHD labored to cut costs and restore profitability to the ailing Deutz-Allis Corp. It closed down U.S. tractor production facilities and began relying solely on its imported German-built tractors. However, KHD continued to operate the Allis-Chalmers combine manufacturing facility in Independence, Missouri, and even invested about $8 million in capital improvements at the plant. Importantly, KHD drastically reduced the number of equipment dealers from about 1,800 to just 800 and slashed its U.S. workforce from more than 1,800 to just 900. The company also eliminated some unprofitable product lines and worked to reduce unnecessary operational costs. The effort succeeded in reducing Deutz-Allis's losses from about $82 million in 1987 to just $1.9 million in 1989.

Creation of AGCO Through 1990 Management Buyout

Despite these noteworthy gains with its new Deutz-Allis unit, KHD was disappointed with the performance of its U.S. farm equipment operations. Importantly, the company had underestimated the loyalty of American farmers, many of whom were World War II veterans, to U.S.-built machinery. One of the Deutz-Allis gleaners, for example, was nicknamed the "Kraut Can" by import-wary farmers, despite the fact that the machine was built in Missouri. By 1989, KHD had tired of its Deutz-Allis experiment and was ready to sell the division. Robert Ratliff, the head of Deutz-Allis in the United States, recognized the company's potential; along with a group of fellow executives, Ratliff arranged to purchase the division by selling off Deutz-Allis receivables and using the money to finance a management buyout. Ratliff's management group completed the acquisition of Deutz-Allis in 1990 and renamed the company Allis-Gleaner Corporation, or AGCO Corporation.

Ratliff was well acquainted with both AGCO's operations and the machinery industry when he took control of the company. He had worked at Uniroyal and at International Harvester, where he headed the truck group, before KHD hired him in 1988 to turn around the ailing Deutz-Allis. Upon purchasing the company, he and four other executives, with the help of investment firm Hamilton, Robinson & Co., moved quickly to assume control of the $200-million-per-year equipment manufacturer. "We never looked back," Ratliff recalled in the October 30, 1994, Topeka (Kans.) Capital-Journal. Ratliff and his partners moved AGCO's headquarters to near Atlanta, Georgia, where the company could get a clean start by taking advantage of strong transportation and labor markets. Among other changes, they brought back the distinguished bright orange color to the farm equipment, which KHD had previously jettisoned in favor of dark green.

In the early 1990s, AGCO executives launched an aggressive plan to cut costs and increase efficiency. More importantly, they devised an ambitious strategy for growth. In 1991, Ratliff went to his home state of Kansas to negotiate the purchase of Hesston Corporation, a small hay handling equipment company with an excellent reputation for quality but a long history of financial problems. Founded by a group of Mennonite farmers, the company prospered for a short time before giant round-balers were introduced to the industry. Hesston was then purchased by Fiat, of Italy, which achieved uneven success in attempting to turn the company around. Ratliff believed that his team stood a better chance of reviving the company. A few months after the Hesston purchase, AGCO bought the White Tractor division of Allied Products. The acquisition of both Hesston and White Tractor not only rounded out AGCO's product line, but it also added 1,100 dealerships for the distribution of AGCO's existing machinery.

The Hesston and White Tractor acquisitions provided an insight into Ratliff's long-term profit strategy for AGCO. He realized that AGCO would be fighting an uphill battle if it was going to try to compete with manufacturing giants such as John Deere and J.I. Case. "You've got 70 percent of the industry in North America controlled by two companies ... neither of which has made money for a number of years," explained Allen Ritchie, head of AGCO's acquisition team, in the May 1994 issue of Georgia Trend. "[Those] businesses were really being driven by the manufacturing side of the business--low cost production ... and nobody won." Thus, instead of profiting by building more farm equipment, AGCO hoped to succeed by beating Deere and Case in the marketing and distribution arenas. To that end, AGCO executives planned to concentrate on building a comprehensive, efficient network of dealers that could supply an expansive, reputable product line.

Mid-1990s Acquisition of Massey Ferguson

AGCO paid $36 million for both Hesston and White Tractor, financing each deal by selling more receivables. To help stabilize the ballooning organization, Ratliff hired John Shumejda to serve as chief operating officer. Shumejda was an engineer and an expert at farm machinery technology. While Shumejda worked to streamline AGCO's manufacturing and distribution operations, Ratliff and Ritchie continued to make acquisitions. In January 1993 AGCO paid $94.8 million to Varity Corp. for the assets of farm-tractor giant Massey Ferguson's North American operations. This move represented a major coup for AGCO in that Massey added 1,100 new dealers to AGCO's network and $200 million in sales. In addition, AGCO bought a related credit company for about $45 million which became a primary profit center for the corporation. Later that year, AGCO acquired White-New Idea for $53 million. This baling equipment manufacturer added $83 million to AGCO's revenue and tagged 300 new dealers onto its burgeoning network. In the meantime, AGCO's acquisition spree was aided by an initial public offering of one-half of the company's stock. Initially traded on the NASDAQ, AGCO gained a listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994.

By mid-1994, AGCO had established itself as the top North American distributor of tractors and a leading distributor of a wide range of farm machinery. Its giant distribution network had swelled to include 2,600 dealers, compared to John Deere's 1,400. AGCO was selling 20 different tractor models under the AGCO Allis name, four different Gleaner combines, 11 White tractors, and a range of equipment marketed under the names of Massey Ferguson and other brands. Although AGCO's debt burden had increased significantly, sales rocketed from about $220 million in 1990 to $314 million in 1992 and then $596 million in 1993. More importantly, AGCO's net income bounded to a healthy $34 million in 1993 (including a $14 million charge related to the Massey Ferguson buyout).

In 1994 AGCO transformed itself from a midsized North American farm equipment company to an international industry leader when it paid the equivalent of about $330 million for the international operations of Massey Ferguson. Prior to the buyout, only about 2 percent of AGCO's revenue came from outside North America. That figure shot up past 50 percent after the sale, giving AGCO immediate access to 140 different countries where Massey Ferguson was active. Furthermore, the giant division more than doubled AGCO's revenues, which surged in 1994 to an impressive $1.32 billion, about $76 million of which was net income. AGCO also continued to cut costs, particularly in its foreign operations, and to enhance its distribution network.

In 1995 AGCO bought the AgEquipment Group, manufacturer and marketer of agricultural implements and tillage equipment under the Glencoe, Tye, and Farmhand brands. The recent acquisitions helped revenues surge past the $2 billion mark, hitting $2.13 billion. Profits jumped to $129.1 million.

Late 1990s: International Acquisitions, Industry Downturn

International growth was at the forefront during 1996 and 1997. In June 1996 AGCO paid about $260 million for Iochpe-Mexion, the company's Massey Ferguson licensee in Brazil. Iochpe-Mexion held about a 45 percent share of Brazil's farm tractor market, along with significant portions of the combine harvester and loader-backhoe markets as well. That November, Jean-Paul Richard was named AGCO president and CEO, with Ratliff remaining chairman. Richard, a one-time president and CEO of Massey Ferguson, had served on the AGCO board since the acquisition of that firm. Further South American expansion came in December 1996 when AGCO completed a $61 million purchase of Deutz Argentina S.A. to gain the leading producer of farm tractors in the continent's second largest market. In early 1997 the company acquired the German firm Xaver Fendt GmbH & Co. KG for $320 million. Fendt was known as a producer of some of the world's most technologically advanced tractors and heavy farm equipment. With annual revenues of $580 million, Fendt was the market leader in Germany, where it held a market share of 25 percent, and had significant market shares in several other Western European nations: 23 percent in the Netherlands, 20 percent in the United Kingdom, 18 percent in Scandinavia, and 17 percent in France. On the strength of these deals, AGCO's revenues leaped 39 percent during 1997, reaching $3.22 billion. Net income reached a new high as well, amounting to $168.7 million. Richard, however, was not around when these stellar results were announced. He had resigned in August 1997, apparently after clashing with Ratliff, who seemed reluctant to give up too much day-to-day control over the company whose formation he had spearheaded. Ratliff reassumed the CEO spot following Richard's departure.

The 1990s ended on a down note for AGCO, as economic difficulties in Asia and Russia, which reduced the grain exports of U.S. farmers, coupled with three straight years of record crops, drastically reduced crop prices--to 20-year lows--and in turn sharply depressed demand for farm equipment. Agricultural equipment makers, including AGCO, began laying off workers, cutting production, and in some cases closing plants. In October 1998 AGCO announced that it was cutting 1,400 jobs, or about 12 percent of its workforce. Tractor and combine production was cut by 13 percent below 1997 levels, and the company saw its revenues and profits both drop for the year, to $2.94 billion and $60.6 million, respectively. AGCO also announced that it would sell its manufacturing plant in Argentina, consolidating the production there at its plant in Brazil. Late in 1999 AGCO revealed plans to close plants in Coldwater, Ohio; and Lockney, Texas. For 1999, the company suffered a net loss of $11.5 million on sales of just $2.41 billion. In February 1999, meantime, Shumejda was named president and CEO; Ratliff continued to serve as chairman.

Early 2000s and Beyond

As the downturn in the agricultural equipment market continued, AGCO cut its workforce by a further 5 percent in 2000 and closed its factory in Independence, Missouri. The company also reentered the acquisition arena. In mid-2000 AGCO bought out CNH Global N.V.'s stake in a hay-farming equipment joint venture called Hay and Forage Industries, based in Hesston, Kansas. (CNH Global had been formed in November 1999 through the merger of New Holland N.V. and Case Corporation.) Later in 2000 AGCO entered into a joint venture with Italian agriculture equipment maker Same DeutzFahr S.p.A. to distribute Same, Deutz-Fahr, Lamborghini, and Huerlimann brands in North America. AGCO next purchased the Minnesota firm Ag-Chem Equipment Co., Inc. in early 2001 for $247.2 million. The addition of Ag-Chem gave AGCO the leading position in self-propelled sprayers that spread fertilizer and chemicals on fields. In January 2002 AGCO bought Caterpillar Inc.'s agricultural tractor business. It featured the Challenger line of tractors, launched in the late 1980s, which had rubber-belted bulldozer-like tracks.

Just a week before the Caterpillar deal was completed, tragedy hit the company. A corporate jet carrying Shumejda and Edward Swingle, AGCO's senior vice-president of sales and marketing worldwide, crashed on takeoff in Birmingham, England, killing all aboard. An investigation later revealed that the failure of the flight crew to de-ice the plane was the likely cause of the crash. Within hours of the crash, Ratliff reassumed the position of president and CEO. Ratliff went on to complete one more deal that year, the $48 million purchase of Sunflower Manufacturing Co., Inc., finalized in November. Based in Beloit, Kansas, Sunflower was a leading producer of tillage, seeding, and specialty harvesting equipment. Also in 2002 AGCO announced plans to close its tractor plant in Coventry, England, shifting production to facilities in France and Brazil. During 2003 the Challenger tractor factory in DeKalb, Illinois, was also shut down, and production of the Challenger line was relocated to a plant in Jackson, Minnesota. Overall, 2003 was AGCO's best year since 1997. Whereas the company suffered a net loss of $84.4 million on sales of $2.92 billion in 2002, results for 2003 showed profits of $74.4 million on record revenues of $3.5 billion.

In early January 2004 AGCO completed its largest acquisition yet, acquiring the Valtra tractor and diesel engine operations of the Finnish firm Kone Corporation for about $756 million. Valtra held a market-leading position in the Nordic region of Europe and had a significant presence in Latin America as well. It also provided AGCO with an in-house engine maker. In the fiscal year ending in June 2003, Valtra had an operating profit of about $65 million on $900 million in revenue.

A lengthy executive search also came to fruition in 2004. In July, Martin Richenhagen came onboard as president and CEO, as Ratliff continued as chairman of the board. Richenhagen had most recently served as a group vice-president of Forbo International S.A., a flooring materials concern based in Zurich, Switzerland, and prior to that had been group president from 1998 through 2003 of Claas KgaA mbH, a German farm equipment manufacturer and distributor. The selection of Richenhagen showed how important Europe was to AGCO. Even prior to the Valtra deal, Europe was AGCO's largest market, accounting for 46 percent of 2003 sales. Under Richenhagen's leadership, further major acquisitions did not seem in the offing. In May 2004, prior to officially assuming his position, he told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that "AGCO has put together a fine selection of businesses. My challenge is to create a corporate identity and to grow the business, to harvest what is already in place." Among his specific areas of focus were digesting Valtra, continuing to bolster the distribution of the Challenger line, improving the manufacturing operations, and strengthening the company's worldwide network of dealers.

Principal Subsidiaries: AGCO Equipment Company; Fendt GmbH (Germany); Massey Ferguson Corp.; Valtra Holding Oy (Finland).

Principal Competitors: Deere & Company; CNH Global N.V.

Chronology

  • Key Dates:
  • 1901: Edward P. Allis Company merges with Fraser & Chalmers to form Allis-Chalmers Company, based in Milwaukee.
  • 1913: Company name is changed to Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company.
  • 1920s:Company enters the farm tractors market.
  • 1971: Company changes its name to Allis-Chalmers Corp.
  • 1984: Industry downturn leads to three-month shutdown of tractor and combine production plants.
  • 1985: Farm equipment division is sold to Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG (KHD); the German firm combines the division with its Deutz Farm Equipment subsidiary to form Deutz-Allis Corp.
  • 1990: Robert Ratliff leads a management buyout of Deutz-Allis, which is soon operating as AGCO Corporation; headquarters are shifted to near Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 1991: Acquisition spree begins with purchases of Hesston Corporation and White Tractor.
  • 1992: One-half of AGCO's stock is sold via an initial public offering.
  • 1993: AGCO purchases Massey Ferguson's North American operations.
  • 1994: Company's stock listing shifts from the NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange; company buys the international operations of Massey Ferguson.
  • 1997: Xaver Fendt GmbH & Co. KG, the leading German tractor maker, is acquired.
  • 2004: The Valtra tractor and diesel engine operations of the Finnish firm Kone Corporation are acquired for $756 million.
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