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WILSON GREATBATCH LTD. TO GO PUBLIC ON FRIDAY

Clarence battery maker Wilson Greatbatch Ltd. is getting ready to make its debut on Wall Street.

The medical products maker, whose batteries power nearly all of the world's heart pacemakers, plans to sell 4.7 million shares of stock to the public for $15 to $17 apiece in an initial public offering scheduled for Friday.

The IPO, which would be the first by a major Western New York company since Columbus McKinnon went public in February 1996, would raise up to $79.9 million for the company, which plans to use the process to pay off up to $78.9 million in loans. The proceeds could be higher if the demand for the shares is high and the offering's underwriters use their option to expand the number of shares sold.

Following the IPO, DLJ Merchant Banking, the investment firm that led a group that acquired Wilson Greatbatch in a leveraged buyout with the firm's top managers in 1997, will own about 57 percent of the company's stock, down from 78 percent currently.

The company was founded in 1970 by Clarence inventor Wilson Greatbatch, who developed the world's first implantable heart pacemaker, and it still makes about 60 percent of the small but durable batteries used to power pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators. Another 30 percent of those batteries are made under licenses granted by Wilson Greatbatch, giving the company a near-monopoly on the market for pacemaker and internal defibrillator batteries.

Wilson Greatbatch, which employs more than 750 people, including about 650 in Western New York, is going public after a difficult 1999 that saw the company lose $2.28 million and temporarily cut salaries by 10 percent in a move to reduce expenses.

The company also needed waivers from its lenders after falling into violation of covenants in its credit agreements in November 1999 and February. The firm currently is in compliance with all of its covenants, according to filings the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company's finances have improved in the first half of this year, with Wilson Greatbatch cutting its losses nearly in half to $776,000 from $1.48 million a year ago.

The company's sales rose 22 percent during the first six months of the year to $46.6 million from $38.3 million, mainly because of sharply higher revenues from a new line of capacitors that Wilson Greatbatch introduced last fall.

The capacitors, which are used in implantable defibrillators, store energy generated by a battery before it is delivered to the heart. The capacitors use new technology that allows Wilson Greatbatch to make the devices smaller and more efficient than conventional capacitors.

Wilson Greatbatch also said it acquired a small specialty battery manufacturer, Battering Engineering, from Hitachi-Maxell Ltd. during August in exchange for 339,856 shares of stock and the assumption of $2.7 million in debt. Battery Engineering has about 90 employees and has become part of Wilson Greatbatch's commercial power source operations.

The stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GB.

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