BALL BOUNCES INTO PET FIELD

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NEW YORK - George Sissel isn't concerned about being late for the PET packaging ball. He thinks the party is just beginning. ``I'm not preoccupied with whether or not we're late entering the PET market,'' said Sissel, president and chief executive officer at Ball Corp. in Muncie, Ind.

``If we're late, so be it. But we're not too late. And if we had waited another year, we'd be even later,'' he said.

Ball is building a PET bottle plant in California - its first - to supply Pepsi-Cola Co. Ball plans to have the plant operating by November, and have a second in production and a third in the works by the end of 1996.

``In our opinion, the growth is still in its infancy,'' Sissel said at the PaineWebber Packaging Wrap-Up in New York.

Compared with Ball's traditional glass, steel and aluminum packaging product lines, PET bottles definitely look like a growth market, Sissel said. And he said that Ball already makes either glass or metal packaging for most of its potential PET bottle customers.

Within two to three years, Ball expects its PET operations to be large enough to make a significant contribution to the $2.6 billion firm's bottom line, said R. David Hoover, senior vice president and chief financial officer.

In addition to PET, Ball is making a major push internationally - initially with its metal and glass operations, but eventually in plastics, Sissel said. On May 15 the firm said it will build two metal can plants, and also expand its existing operations, in China.

Ball generates 5 percent of its sales from international operations, its goal is to expand that to 15-20 percent by 2000.