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Ivex Packaging Corp. has acquired the oriented polystyrene sheet extrusion and thermoforming operations of Viskase Ltd. in Sedgefield, England.

The purchase gives Ivex its first thermoforming sales into Europe and also expands its OPS sheet business there, according to Rick Cote, vice president and treasurer.

Viskase Ltd., a unit of Envirodyne Industries Inc. of Oak Brook, Ill., retains PVC and oriented polypropylene film operations in Sedgefield. Terms of the cash deal were undisclosed.

Ivex, based in Lincolnshire, Ill., gains $20 million in OPS sales from Viskase, most of it in thermoformed food packaging, according to Cote. Ivex's main plastics business comprises extruded PS sheet and thermoformed OPS containers, the latter sold primarily to the grocery store, fast-food and food-service markets for packaging deli, salads, bakery goods and other food products.

The company does about $160 million in thermoforming sales, and another $160 million in sales for extruded sheet and film through its Kama Corp. subsidiary, based in Hazleton, Pa. Even before the Viskase purchase, Kama was shipping rolls of plastic into Europe and the United Kingdom as Kama Europe Ltd., Cote said. In 1996 Ivex had total sales of about $480 million for plastic and paper-based consumer and industrial packaging, he said.

Included in the Viskase deal is a 45,000-square-foot plant in Sedgefield that houses eight thermoforming lines and an undisclosed number of extruders, Cote said. Ivex also inherits a strategic alliance with a company called Vitallo, which operated four more thermoforming lines for Viskase in Belgium. The Sedgefield operation employs about 110, he said.

Viskase Ltd. divested the thermoforming operations to focus on its core film business, according to an Envirodyne news release.

Domestically, Envirodyne's Viskase Corp. subsidiary, based in Chicago, manufactures film for packaging applications, including heat-shrinkable bags and specialty films for packaging fresh and processed meat, poultry and cheese.

Its flexible packaging joint ventures include operations in Brazil and Australia.

Since 1992, Viskase Corp.'s heat-shrinkable plastic bag technology has been the subject of two patent-infringement lawsuits. Late last year it won a $102 million judgment against American National Can Co. for allegedly infringing on six Viskase patents.

Another Envirodyne subsidiary, Clear Shield National Inc. of Wheeling, Ill., manufactures disposable plastic cutlery, drinking straws and custom dining kits. Sandusky Plastics Inc. of Sandusky, Ohio, thermoforms and injection molds plastic containers for dairy, deli and food-service products and other uses.

Envirodyne also does a significant business in cellulosic casing, used in preparing and packaging processed meat products. The public company has total sales of about $650 million.

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