We encounter a wide variety of competitors that vary by product, industry and geographic area. Each of our segments generally has several competitors. Our competitors are both U.S. and foreign companies and range in size. We believe that our ability to compete depends upon product quality, product reliability, innovation, design, customer support and service, specialized engineering and competitive pricing. Although no competitor duplicates all of our products, some competitors are larger than our Company, both in terms of sales of directly competing products and in terms of total sales and financial resources. We also face competitors with different cost structures and expectations of profitability and these companies may offer competitive products at lower prices. We may have to refresh our product line and continue development of our distribution channel to stay competitive. We are also facing competitors who illegally sell counterfeits of our products or otherwise infringe on our intellectual property rights. We may have to increase our intellectual property and unfair competition enforcement activities.
Our compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations did not have a material effect upon our capital expenditures, earnings or competitive position during the fiscal year ended December 25, 2015.
As of December 25, 2015, we employed approximately 3,200 persons. Of this total, approximately 1,350 were employees based outside of the United States, and 950 were hourly factory workers in the United States. None of our Company’s United States employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Various national industry-wide labor agreements apply to certain employees in various countries outside of the United States. Compliance with such agreements has no material effect on our Company or our operations.
Acquisition and Divestiture of Liquid Finishing Businesses
In April 2012, the Company purchased the finishing businesses of Illinois Tool Works Inc. The acquisition included finishing equipment operations, technologies and brands of the Powder Finishing and Liquid Finishing businesses. Results of the Powder Finishing businesses have been included in the Industrial segment since the date of acquisition.
Under terms of a hold separate order from the Federal Trade Commission, the Company did not have the power to direct the activities of the Liquid Finishing businesses that most significantly impacted the economic performance of those businesses. Consequently, we reflected our investment in the Liquid Finishing businesses as a cost-method investment on our balance sheet, and their results of operations were not consolidated with those of the Company. Dividends received from after-tax earnings of the Liquid Finishing businesses were included in our statements of earnings as investment income.
In April 2015, the Company sold the Liquid Finishing business assets. Net earnings in 2015 included after-tax gain on the sale and dividends totaling $141 million ($2.40 per diluted share). Dividends included in investment income totaled $28 million in 2014 and $28 million in 2013. No further Liquid Finishing dividends will be received.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Growth Strategies and Acquisitions - Our growth strategies may not provide the return on investment desired if we are not successful in implementation of these strategies.
Making acquisitions, investing in new products, expanding geographically and targeting new industries are among our growth strategies. We may not obtain the return on investment desired if we are not successful in implementing these growth strategies. The success of our acquisitions strategy depends on our ability to successfully identify suitable acquisition candidates, negotiate appropriate acquisition terms, obtain financing at a reasonable cost, prevail against competing acquirers, complete the acquisitions and integrate or add the acquired businesses into our existing businesses or corporate structure. Once successfully integrated into our existing businesses or added to our corporate structure, the acquired businesses may not perform as planned, be accretive to earnings, generate positive cash flows or otherwise be beneficial to us. We may not realize projected efficiencies and cost-savings from the businesses we acquire. We cannot predict how customers, competitors, suppliers and employees will react to the acquisitions that we make. Acquisitions may result in the assumption of undisclosed or contingent liabilities, the incurrence of increased indebtedness and expenses, and the diversion of management’s time and attention away from other business matters. We make significant investments in developing products that have innovative features and differentiated technology in their industries and in niche markets. We are adding to the geographies in which we do business with third party distributors. We cannot predict whether and when we will be able to realize the expected financial results and accretive effect of the acquisitions that we make, the new products that we develop and the channel expansions that we make.