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Heli expands in North America, ignites dispute

Thursday, 17 Aug 2006 ( #273 ) - DALLAS, TX, United States
News Story
A Heli electric forklift.
by US correspondent Roger Renstrom

An expansion of Heli’s forklift distribution in North America has ignited a dispute between operating units of Sammons Enterprises Inc and Nacco Materials Handling Group Inc.

Sammons formed MH Imports Inc to distribute China-made Heli equipment in United States’ geographic regions yet to be fully identified. Dallas-based Sammons is a privately owned conglomerate with diversified interests.

Sammons hired Bruce Pelynio as president of the new Dallas-based business unit. He was previously with Nacco’s Yale Materials Handling Corp unit, in Greenville, North Carolina, for six years, most recently as director of North American aftermarket sales.

Nacco has objected to the new MH-Heli relationship, claiming in a lawsuit it intrudes on existing business agreements between Yale and another Sammons business unit, Briggs Industrial Equipment Inc, an authorised dealer of Yale forklifts, replacement parts and service.

On June 21, Nacco and Yale filed a breach of contract suit against Heli unit Anhui Heli Industrial Vehicle Import and Export Co Ltd, of Hefei, China, and a separate Sammons entity, Briggs Equipment SA de CV, of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, which distributes Yale equipment in Mexico. The case was filed in the US Federal District Court in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is pending before Judge Terrence Boyle. No hearings have been scheduled.

The suit said Briggs had been a Yale dealer for more than 50 years and was committed to representing Yale exclusively and not marketing products of any full-line competitor to Yale. In the suit, Nacco alleged Heli induced Briggs to breach its commitments to Yale.

Nacco, of Portland, Oregon, USA, is seeking an injunction to halt the MH-Heli business deal, compensatory and punitive damages, court costs and legal fees.

Anhui Heli Co manufactures a wide range of Heli materials handling equipment, including internal combustion balanced and counter balanced forklifts and diesel pneumatic tyre units. The firm’s 2006 production volume may approach 29,000 units, Southwest Equipment Sales (SWES) president John Faulkner said.

Anhui Heli Industrial Vehicle Import and Export Co Ltd deals with markets outside China and has representation through SWES in the western United States.

SWES, of Denver, Colorado, has a master distributor agreement with Heli covering most of 15 states in the west but those states do not overlap the probable MH Imports territories. Details on MH’s specific geographic territory for Heli remain under discussion as part of a pending master distributor agreement between MH and Heli, Pelynio said.

Heli established a small toehold in the North American market in 1998 through a factory-run site in Florida. SWES became involved with Heli in February 2005. "I saw an opportunity," Faulkner said.

Pelynio said Heli was China’s largest materials handling equipment manufacturer. He said a unit of Anhui Heli Co Ltd, of Hefei, China, exhibited Heli forklift equipment at the ProMat 2005 trade show in Chicago.

Briggs Equipment has a long history. A predecessor firm was established in 1896. Self-made billionaire Charles A Sammons acquired Briggs-Weaver Machinery Co in 1952 and consolidated his holdings as Sammons Enterprises. Briggs Equipment became a separate Sammons business in 1996 and is a major dealer of industrial and construction equipment in the southern United States and Mexico. Briggs supplies all lines of forklifts manufactured by Yale and Taylor Machine Works Inc, of Louisville, Mississippi, USA.

The Nacco suit said Sammons subsidiary Briggs Equipment Trust owned 99 percent of the Mexican corporation Briggs Equipment SA de CV.
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