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German copper manufacturer to buy former American Brass plant; Luvata Buffalo could get up to $371 million

The former American Brass plant on Military Road, now called Luvata Buffalo, is being sold to a German copper manufacturer as part of a deal with the plant's parent company to sell its rolled products division.

The transaction awaits regulatory approval and is expected to close in August. The final price is expected to be as high as $371 million, according to the agreement reached Friday.

Luvata, owned by a Swedish investment group, said it decided to sell the division to focus more on its core business.

"This sale is a good strategic move for Luvata," said CEO and President John Peter Leesi in a release.

Luvata Buffalo President Ray Mercer said he was enthusiastic about the sale.

"In general, we look at this as a very positive change. [The purchasing company] has been in business for a very long time," he said. "It's very experienced in our business."

Luvata's rolled products division employs 1,100 people at production facilities in the United States, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy.

The purchaser, Aurubis AG, is the largest European producer of copper and one of the largest copper recyclers in the world, with 4,800 employees.

"This acquisition is an important strategic move for Aurubis, its customers, shareholders and employees," said CEO Bernd Drouven in a release. "Aurubis continues its internationalization strategy of becoming the world's leading integrated copper producer and processor."

The Luvata Buffalo plant, which employs about 600 workers, has seen several ownership changes. It opened in 1906 as Buffalo Copper & Brass Rolling Mills. It's most recent ownership change came in 2005, when Outokumpu American Brass sold the plant at Sayre Street and Military Road to Swedish investment group Nordic Capital, which changed the name to Luvata.

"It's difficult to say how the [ownership] changes have affected the plant," Mercer said. "The economy has gone through such a tumultuous time. It's hard to separate [ownership changes] from the storm of the economy. Right now, business is picking up. The future looks much brighter."

e-mail: vsherry@buffnews.com