TOKYO -- Hitachi Chemical will take control of Italian autoparts group Fiamm's lead-acid battery business, as the Japanese company aims to gain a European foothold in a growth field.
The two companies announced Monday that Hitachi Chemical will pay roughly 10.2 billion yen ($90.5 million) for a 51% stake in the spun-off automotive and industrial battery operations, with a target closing date of February.
Demand for the rechargeable batteries in environmentally conscious Europe is high, both for cars with engine stop-start systems that have become more widespread amid tightening fuel regulations, and for uninterruptible power-supply systems.
Hitachi Chemical plans to bring its battery-life-extending technology to bear on the newly acquired production. Tapping into Fiamm's Europe-wide sales network will help it seek a bigger slice of the lead battery market.
Hitachi Chemical has for several years been building up its battery business, treating it as a growth industry comparable to semiconductor and liquid crystal components. The company kicked off this global expansion with the purchase of a Taiwanese manufacturer in 2015, but until now, its outposts have been concentrated in Asia. The European deal marks a step Hitachi Chemical had been eyeing.