Today, Swiss engineering powerhouse ABB (NYSE: ABB ) announced that it's picking up Arkansas-based Baldor Electric (NYSE: BEZ ) , a leading producer of electric motors and drives, for $4.2 billion.
ABB had previously noted its desire to fill out its U.S. presence and bulk up in the automation industry. This purchase does exactly that, and will help the company better compete with hometown heavyweights like General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , specifically in the area of high-efficiency motors.
With the new Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 taking effect next month, Baldor expects its premium-efficient motors to comprise roughly half of its total motor sales. That's a huge change from 2008 and 2009, when they comprised just 10.4% and 14.1% of motor sales, respectively. If this deal looks a little on the rich side (at 13.8 times trailing EBITDA), it's probably because Baldor's sales and margins are on the verge of improving materially.
Millions of motors fail each year, and hundreds of thousands are replaced. With the upfront cost and ongoing maintenance of a motor representing just 2% of the total cost of ownership -- with electricity representing the other 98% -- you would think that industrial customers would already be buying the most efficient motors that money can buy. That's not always the case, though, and this new legislation will nudge purchasers in that direction. ABB is stepping in at an opportune time.
ABB's CEO, who told The New York Times that America is on the verge of "reindustrializing," really hit upon the larger backdrop here. As one of the first countries to industrialize, we have a massive amount of infrastructure that needs upgrading or outright replacing. Our electric power infrastructure is a major component of that necessary overhaul.
Several of our subscriber services are keyed into this trend, and have made some interesting recommendations. Motley Fool Pro recommended Quanta Services (NYSE: PWR ) , a contractor that specializes in building out infrastructure including power lines and pipelines. Over at Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Tom Gardner has tapped ITC (NYSE: ITC ) , an independent electric transmission company looking to integrate wind power and other renewable sources into the grid via its planned Green Power Express.
As for me, I have a lot of other ideas for investing in the retooling of America's energy infrastructure. I co-authored a book on the subject, called The Hidden Cleantech Revolution. You can download a free copy right here. I'd love to hear what you think.