Johnson Screens is acquired by German construction giant

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 11:17 AM

German construction giant Bilfinger has agreed to to buy New Brighton-based Johnson Screens, which makes water-treatment equipment, for about $134 million.

Bilfinger, Germany's No. 2 contractor, wants to get bigger in the booming water-controls trade.

Johnson Screens, founded in St. Paul more than a century ago, is owned by Switzerland-based Weatherford International. Johnson employs 1,200 and had revenue last year of about $214 million, according to a Bilfinger press statement. An official at Johnson declined to comment on the transaction Friday.

The acquisition allows the much-larger Bilfinger to double its sales of water and wastewater-treatment technology to more than $400 million annually and "also to increase the strong profitability in this sector," Bilfinger said.

Johnson Screens, which operates through 11 locations in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific, produces mechanical components for the separation of solids from liquids and gases and related services for industrial and government customers. The products are used to produce drinking water, to aid in exploration for the oil and gas industry, wastewater treatment and other types of dirty-water reclamation.

Weatherford International, a Switzerland-based company, has decided to focus on its predominant oil and natural gas technology and services.

The two parties agreed not to disclose details of the purchase price. However, late Friday the Bilfinger chief financial officer said his company was paying around $100 million euros, or about $134 million, to gain access to key markets in the United States and Australia, according to Reuters.

This is the second significant water-related acquisition in two years for the German company.

Companies such as General Electric and Pentair have invested heavily in water technology as population growth and industrial demand pressure existing reserves of fresh water. That has created attractive markets for makers of desalination equipment, as well as technology that conserves water and reuses dirty water.

Johnson Screens was founded in 1904 by Edward E. Johnson of St. Paul, after he invented the world's first "continuous slot wire wrapped well screen," a big technological advancement of the day. Over the years Johnson Screens expanded its water-well screening technology into industries such as surface water treatment, food and beverage processing, pulp and paper, oil and gas, mineral and aggregate processing and petrochemicals.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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