Potter says refinancing will lead to new products

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

St. LOUIS—Potter Electric Signal has refinanced its debt with a new lender, a move the company’s president said would assist Potter as it releases some new fire products over the next two years.

Potter recently announced it completed negotiations Sept. 29 with First Tennessee Bank to refinance its senior secured debt and have the Memphis-based institution become Potter’s primary bank.

Bernie Lears, president and CEO of Potter, explained why Potter, which underwent a management buyout in 2008, was looking to refinance now.

“Due to the many new and exciting products Potter is planning to release in the next 24 months, management felt it was of the utmost importance to take full advantage of the current banking environment and restructure its existing debt, utilizing lower interest rates and more favorable payments structures to improve its cash flow in support of these expanded activities,” Lears said in an email interview.

He also explained why Potter chose First Tennessee after the company had interviewed a number of banks in St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati and Memphis, Tenn.

Lears said the company’s goal “was to find a bank which would provide very competitive interest rates and payment terms, but more importantly was interested in Potter’s business and helping Potter to achieve its aggressive growth initiatives.”

First Tennessee met those criteria, Lears said. He particularly praised Phil Stevenson, senior vice president with First Tennessee.

He said, “Phil Stevenson and the First Tennessee staff did everything they could to make the negotiation process easy; just the way Potter likes to deal with its customers.  Once we saw how they responded to Potter, we knew we were dealing with the right bank.”

In a statement, Stevenson said First Tennessee is “very pleased to have established this relationship with a leader in its field like Potter.”

Lears declined to disclose the financial details of the agreement, but said the terms will “provide Potter with considerable flexibility and the resulting cash flow to help with Potter’s upcoming release of its line of fire systems, smoke detectors and modules as well as its new line of perimeter protection, including the new Merlin graffiti detector.”

Potter this summer announced its new Merlin Graffiti Detection System. Designed to deter spray paint vandals, the system works by sounding an alarm when it detects the sound of a can of spray paint.

Also this summer, Potter celebrated a new partnership with Nohmi Bosai, the largest fire protection provider in Japan, and showcased a new line of intelligent fire protection products that Potter and Nohmi engineers jointly designed.