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Vertiv Acquires Custom Air-Handler Maker Energy Labs

The company says the deal will bolster its portfolio of large air handling solutions for free cooling for its data center customers, in addition to airports, hospitals, universities, and other critical commercial segments.

Vertiv announced this week that it has acquired the privately owned custom air handling manufacturer Energy Labs for an undisclosed amount. Evidently, Platinum Equity -- Vertiv's owner since it bought it as Emerson Network Power about a year ago -- meant it when it said its focus would be on long-term growth for the company and not on squeezing maximum short-term profits by putting it on a starvation diet.

There was room for doubt. In July, just months after Peter Panfil, VP global power at Vertiv told Data Center Knowledge about Platinum's approach, Vertiv sold ASCO, its automatic transfer switch business, to Schneider Electric in a deal worth $1.25 billion.

"Energy Labs is a perfect fit," Vertiv CEO, Rob Johnson, said in a statement, "with talented people, innovative technologies and complementary expertise that will help us continue to meet the needs of our customers, while also expanding into adjacent markets."

Indeed, Energy Labs does seem to be a good fit for Vertiv's business of designing, building, and servicing critical infrastructure for data centers, communication networks, and commercial and industrial facilities. The company manufactures custom air handling and modular solutions, including direct evaporative, indirect evaporative, and direct expansion cooling technologies.

Vertiv points out that this will add to its existing commercial and industrial capabilities and bring added opportunities to work with universities, hospitals, airports, office buildings, and other critical commercial segments where air handling systems are the preferred cooling solution.

Data centers, of course, would be part of that mix.

"Cloud and colocation providers also are driving a robust market for these large, free-cooling air handling solutions, and this acquisition bolsters the Vertiv portfolio for these important customers," the company said in its press release.

The fit will be even better if the company is able to easily integrate the cooling technology it's gaining with its Liebert iCOM-S thermal system control software, which it currently offers with certain cooling systems manufactured by Liebert and installed in North America. The software controls all aspects of cooling and lowers energy costs through learned efficiency.

"It’s something we’re evaluating," said John Schneider, Vertiv's vice president and general manager, thermal management, told us this week. "It’s too early to say definitively, but we are looking at both companies’ portfolios and capabilities to see ways we can make our solutions even better for our customers."

Even if that's not possible, having Energy Labs' expertise on board will be good for Vertiv's sales crew, which was expanded last spring to include not only added personnel, but a data center commissioning unit and a new global solutions team for tailoring data center solutions to customer needs. Manufacturing its own custom HVAC systems would be an added plus.

San Diego-based Energy Labs has been in business since 1974 and was granted its first patents in 1978, according to its website. Over time it's evolved from a company that shopped out most of its needs to one that designs and manufactures its products in-house. According to Bloomberg, its customer base includes large institutional buildings, such as hospitals, universities, schools, performing-arts centers, data centers, laboratories, and office buildings, as well as US-based electronics, manufacturing, aerospace, and research facilities in the US.

"This is the first acquisition under the Vertiv banner, and it is exactly the kind of additive move we feel can accelerate the company’s growth," Jacob Kotzubei, a partner at Platinum Equity, said.

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