Kubota to Buy Great Plains


By Jim Patrico
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

PLATTSBURG, Mo. (DTN) -- The acquisition season continues. Japanese giant Kubota on Friday announced it has reached an agreement to purchase Great Plains Manufacturing based in Salina, Kansas.

The deal comes in the midst of a six-month period when farm equipment manufacturers large and small have sought comfort in each other's arms during a serious downturn in the market. John Deere last winter bought Precision Planting from Monsanto and acquired the French planter manufacturer Monosem. This year, Deere bought a controlling interest in sprayer manufacturer Hagie. Trimble also has been active in the acquisition game, as have other smaller companies.

Kubota's agreement with Great Plains is not a total shocker. In fact, it is part of a widely publicized company strategy. In 2012, Kubota President Yasuo Masumoto told journalists that his company was in pursuit of a large farm equipment company with the goal of becoming a full-line farm equipment manufacturer. That blockbuster purchase hasn't happened yet, but Kubota has made steps in the full-line direction. It started in 2012 when Kubota acquired Norwegian company Kverneland Group and its manufacturing facilities in western Europe, Russia and China. That expanded Kubota's portfolio into the hay and forage market.

The purchase of Great Plains will make Kubota a force in the tillage, planter and drill segments. It also will give Kubota a new presence in Europe, where Great Plains in 2010 bought Simba International and its factory in England, which produces planters, tillage tools and landscape equipment.

Kubota already had longstanding marketing agreements with Land Pride, a Great Plains subsidiary that specializes in small farm, turf and landscape equipment.

Also included in the deal are Great Plains' trucking and finance divisions.

According to Friday's announcement, all five Great Plains divisions will continue to operate as they have been with their infrastructures intact. "We intend to respect the distinctiveness of the brands, trademarks and operational strengths. Doing so will allow employees, dealers and customers to do business with the same great companies they have come to know and trust," said Todd Stucke, senior vice president of sales, marketing and product support for Kubota.

Great Plains Chairman Roy Applequist will remain with the company he founded 40 years ago. "My plan is to play a significant role in helping Great Plains become a vital part of the Kubota family," he said.

Great Plains President Linda Salem also will stay in her current position.

While all major farm equipment manufacturers have struggled in the last couple of years, Kubota's product lines have been in rare sweet spots. A strengthened livestock segment helped with hay and forage equipment sales. And small tractors have been one of the few categories that have held up, in part because the general U.S. economy has encouraged more part-time farmers and rural landowners to invest in equipment.

While new planter sales have been weak across the industry, Great Plains this year announced a unique new accessory called AccuShot, which can be retrofitted onto existing planters. AccuShot places liquids -- starter fertilizer, insecticide or fungicide -- directly and accurately in the furrow. It's the type of innovative technology that Kubota probably figured into its calculations when bidding on Great Plains.

Jim Patrico can be reached at jim.patrico@dtn.com