AUO board approves acquisition of German Behr-Hella Thermocontrol GmbH (“BHTC”) to advance global strategic expansion into smart mobility ecosystem

AUO Corporation (“AUO”) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement under which AUO will acquire 100% equity interest in the German company Behr-Hella Thermocontrol GmbH (hereinafter referred to as “BHTC”) at an enterprise value of €600 million (approximately NT$20.4 billion). AUO continues to implement its biaxial transformation strategy, expand applications in vertical markets, and establish the value chain ecosystem. Through the combination, AUO will be able to integrate resources from both platforms and generate significant synergies through future operations, underscoring AUO’s commitment to its globalization and development strategy of cultivating a smart mobility ecosystem. The transaction is expected to lead to sustainable growth and create long-term value for AUO’s shareholders.

Under the biaxial transformation strategy framework, AUO remains committed to enhancing value-added display technologies (Go Premium), broadening diversified applications in vertical markets (Go Vertical), harnessing cutting-edge innovative display technologies and leveraging abundant resources within the group to gradually expand its global business. With world-leading innovative display technology at its core, AUO has been deeply rooted in the field of automotive display for over 20 years, and has become a trusted and critical component supplier in the automotive industry.

In response to the global development of the flourishing electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles markets, the automotive industry has undergone rapid transformations, within which display applications plays a pivotal role in enhancing cockpit experience. AUO, through the human machine interface integration of in-vehicle displays, automotive systems, embedded sensors, and software services, has progressively expanded its smart cockpit solutions and is aiming to become an ultimate leader in the future of smart mobility services.

Founded in 1999, BHTC is a joint venture of MAHLE Behr GmbH & Co. KG (“MAHLE”) and HELLA GmbH & Co. KGaA (“HELLA”), with each holding a 50% equity stake. BHTC specializes in the development, manufacturing, and sales of Human Machine Interfaces (HMI), Climate Control (CC) and Electronic Control Units (ECU) for the automotive industry. BHTC possesses world-leading resources and development capabilities, with Tier 1 supplier abilities. The company maintains deep collaborations with international automotive OEMs, positioning itself with significant advantages in the rapidly evolving HMI market. BHTC is headquartered in Lippstadt, Germany, and has subsidiaries in the United States, Japan, Bulgaria, Finland, Mexico, India, and China. The company employs approximately 2,900 employees. In the fiscal year of 2022, BHTC reported sales of approximately €619.1 million, operating profit of €16.2 million, EBITDA* of €76.8 million, and net profit of €9 million.

This acquisition represents AUO’s expansion of its smart mobility business as well as a crucial opportunity for AUO to broaden its product portfolio and customer base, allowing AUO to shift its positioning from a panel maker to a technology solutions provider that offers products and services across multiple verticals. 

“Against the backdrop of increasing global competition and industry value chain restructuring,” commented Paul Peng, Chairman and Group Chief Strategy Officer of AUO, “the integration of AUO and BHTC will harness the core advantages of each platform to achieve complementary synergies. By leveraging both companies’ global operations, local manufacturing facilities, and top-notch visionary research and engineering teams, we aim to accelerate the interconnection of world-wide automotive industry supply and value chains to provide outstanding and diverse innovative solutions for our global customers and partners.”

“BHTC is a well-positioned, future-oriented company. However, after consideration of all the framework conditions, we have jointly reached the conclusion that BHTC has greater growth opportunities under a new owner than in the current shareholder structures,” says HELLA CEO Michel Favre. “With our divestment from the joint venture, we are also continuing our established portfolio management. In this context, we are strengthening our focus and resource allocation on our core business groups Lighting, Electronics, and Lifecycle Solutions.”

“Since its foundation almost 25 years ago, BHTC has established itself as a strong automotive supplier with an excellent technology portfolio and a high customer reputation. We are therefore pleased to have found a strategic buyer in AUO who can further develop BHTC’s business in a competitive and continuously growing environment and seize new market opportunities,” emphasizes Arnd Franz, Chairman of the MAHLE Group Management Board and CEO. “We are focusing on further accelerating our transformation with a consistent focus on electrification, thermal management, and components for sustainable green combustion engines as part of our MAHLE 2030+ strategy.”

The acquisition has been approved by the AUO board of directors and will be financed through AUO’s internal cash resources. Subject to the clearance of customary antitrust and regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close by mid-2024.

Morgan Stanley acted as the exclusive financial advisor to AUO Corporation in relation to this acquisition, and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal counsel to AUO Corporation.