Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

FMC Finance Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

FMC Finance Corporation

List of Deals

The FMC Corporation originated as the John Bean Spray Pump Company, which was established in California in 1904 when Bean invented the hand spray pump. The company merged with the prosperous Frank. L. Burrell cannery in 1928, becoming the John Bean Manufacturing Company. The company changed its name to the Food Machinery Corporation during the next year.

FMC remained financially viable during the Depression. The company recognized the cyclical nature of purely agricultural businesses, as they depended too much on crop fluctuations, and began to expand in 1933 by acquiring the Peerless Pump Company, whose inexpensive pumps were in high demand. In 1943 Food Machinery purchased the Niagara Sprayer and Chemical Company, an independent manufacturer of insecticides and fungicides. This acquisition marked Food Machinery's first step into the chemical market. Five years later, the company acquired Westvaco Chemical Corporation, which produced industrial chemicals. Food Machinery was then producing sprayers and pumps, as well as the chemicals to put through them.

Food Machinery prospered through the 1940s due to World War II. The company produced the "Water Buffalo," an amphibious tank that provided important troop mobility during the war. Other products were adapted for wartime uses, such as the orchard sprayer, which was to be used for decontamination purposes, and nailing machines, which produced ammunition boxes. The company remained successful during the postwar years, as wartime reductions produced a market for expensive and technologically advanced food-processing equipment. Defense products remained an important aspect of the company's business after the war. Through the 1960s the company continued to manufacture armored vehicles for the Army and also produced ammunition, naval equipment, and chemicals for the Armed Forces.

In 1948 the company changed its name to the Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation and then, in 1961, to FMC Corporation. Every year between 1950 and 1966 the company showed a financial gain, and the company remained a favorite of investors. FMC continued to diversify and expand and acquired Oil Center Tool in 1957, Sunland Industries in 1959, Barrett Equipment in 1961, and American Viscose Corporation (Avisco) in 1963.

In 1967 the company's financial growth came to an abrupt halt. That year, FMC acquired the Link-Belt Corporation, an equipment manufacturer that quickly proved to have antiquated plants and serious financial difficulties. This purchase, along with the 1963 Avisco acquisition, became a draining point for FMC's finances. The company did show a brief resumption of its upward growth trend in 1968. This improvement, however, was largely due to an accounting change and not indicative of the company's health. Between 1970 and 1971 FMC's profits fell to $39 million from its 1968 level of $75 million. By 1973 the company's stock had fallen from $44 per share to $15. Between 1972 and 1978, the company divested itself of twenty product lines that were either immediate financial drains or were soon to be in danger. This move began to breathe new life into the company.

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