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Huhtamaki Co. of Helsinki, Finland, significantly has expanded its presence in the Asia-Pacific region through its purchase of Pacific World Packaging Pty. Ltd., a Melbourne, Australia-based manufacturer of plastic cups and food containers.

Pacific World Packaging has annual sales of US$75 million, and employs 800 at manufacturing and sales operations in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The companies did not disclose financial terms.

Huhtamaki's Polarcup division

manufactures paper and polypropylene cups for fast-food, catering and food processing markets in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Polarcup had worldwide sales of US$555 million in 1996, and was the leading supplier to those markets in Europe, according to Tim Peltola, Huhtamaki's chief executive officer.

He said the Pacific World Packaging acquisition puts Polarcup in a similar position in the growing Asia-Pacific market.

Pacific World Packaging manufactures PP cups and food containers for food-service and industrial customers.

With the Pacific World Packaging purchase, Polarcup gains four Australian plants, two in China, and one each in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Polarcup already has two manufacturing facilities in Australia, one in Singapore and one in New Zealand.

Peltola said Pacific World is a financially sound company that will complement Polarcup's operations both geographically and technologically.

``PWP and Polarcup are roughly equal in size in the Asia-Pacific, but they have addressed largely different markets and segments,'' he said.

``In Asia, PWP is strong in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan, while Polarcup's presence is concentrated in Southeast Asia,'' Peltola said.

In Australia, Pacific World focused on injection molded ice cream containers and margarine tubs, while Polarcup concentrated on paper and thermoformed plastic cups for the fast-food, catering and dairy industries, according to Peltola.

The Pacific World acquisition means Huhtamaki has postponed its plans for a new US$35 million Polarcup plant in Wuxi, China. Last year, Polarcup announced plans to open a plant in Wuxi by early 1998.

Matti Tikkakoski, Polarcup president, said that with northern China served by Pacific World's Tianjin facility and the southern provinces served by the firm's southern China and Hong Kong operations, there was ``no immediate need to carry on with the planned investment.''

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