$10 MILLION MOLDING PLANT SLATED FOR CHINA

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A Northern Ireland packaging manufacturer has formed a three-way international joint venture in China to build a US$10 million blow molding plant to supply the nation's burgeoning industrial and agrichemical markets.

Boxmore International plc of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, will use proprietary technology to extrusion blow mold 100- to 500-milliliter high density polyethylene bottles with a special solvent barrier layer at the plant at Kunshan, near Shanghai.

The company this month concluded a deal in which it formed Rotam Boxmore, a 50/50 joint venture with Hong Kong-based Rotam Group. Rotam Boxmore holds a 95 percent share in Jiangsu Rotam Boxmore, the Kunshan venture, along with Chinese partner Jiangsu Chemical Bureau.

The 40,000-square-foot Kunshan plant is set to begin operating in the final quarter of this year with an initial output of about 50 million bottles per year. Boxmore is investing 3.5 million ($5.67 million) in the project.

Mark Ennis, Boxmore's deputy group managing director, would not reveal details about the blow molding equipment being installed in Kunshan.

The firm plans to give more information when it reports year-end results in March, he said.

The new factory will employ 80, and will provide packaging for chemicals for China's massive farming sector.

The Chinese government has a policy of substituting plastic bottles for glass ones, which represent 90 percent of the present packaging.

Boxmore said the policy has been slow to catch on because of the poor quality of locally produced plastic containers. Boxmore also sees a significant business opportunity in exporting bottles from China.

Boxmore uses an in-line fluorination process. The patented process results in a microscopic film of fluorine bonding in the inner container layer.

The company claims the process prevents chemicals from permeating into the plastic, allowing used bottles to be reground and recycled.

Rotam, a $200 million-per-year privately owned chemical company, operates plants in China, Canada and Hong Kong, according to Ennis.

Boxmore, which produces a range of packaging including HDPE and PET bottles, cartons, labels and leaflets, operates 11 plants in Northern Ireland, England, Ireland, France and South Africa. It does injection and blow molding.

The firm claims its South African operation produces 30-35 percent of the country's growing PET bottle supply for carbonated soft drinks.

Last year the publicly held firm reported sales of 250 million ($405 million). About 40 percent of sales are generated from pharmaceutical and health-care packaging, 31 percent from food and drink packaging, and 29 percent from barrier and other packaging.

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