Rockwell Automation CEO: Why We Spent $1 Billion to Bet on Connected Factories

Almost $23 billion market cap manufacturer Rockwell Automation is bullish on three things: U.S. manufacturing, the internet-of-things and electric cars. Here's what Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Blake Moret just told TheStreet at Stifel's 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference. On Rockwell's Big Software Play Rockwell is fresh off taking a $1 billion stake in software player PTC. The deal will help speed up Rockwell's push into connected factories. "As information technology and operational technology converge, it was a natural fit for PTC -- which is a software company with innovative offerings -- to work with a company like Rockwell -- which has lived on the plant floor for a long time," Moret explains, adding that the combo should assist manufacturers in using data to unlock productivity. Wall Street is generally upbeat on Rockwell's play. "While sell-side has held their nose on the price paid for such an investment, Moret maintains its a cost effective way to strengthen a technology collaboration and acquire technology capability without a huge step up in internal organic growth investment through R&D," says Stifel analyst Robert McCarthy, who talked with Moret at the conference. On the U.S. Economy While talk is picking up on Wall Street of a possible late 2018 U.S. recession, Moret hasn't seen anything in his diversified manufacturing business that hints trouble is brewing. Says Moret, "Industrial production numbers are showing strong growth ahead, we are seeing that in conversations with our customers. We are confident that we are in the early stages of a period of manufacturing expansion." Rockwell Is Bullish on Electric Cars The strong electric car push by U.S. automakers like Ford and General Motors could help Rockwell in 2019, which has had to contend with slowing auto production in 2018. Moret says Rockwell is now working with 80 electric vehicle startups globally. He is optimistic on electric car demand jump-starting the U.S. auto market next year. Watch more from Stifel's 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference here.

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