W.R. GRACE BUYS PACKAGING FIRM: COMPANY ALSO DIVESTS 2 UNITS

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In moves designed to focus on its core businesses, W.R. Grace & Co. divested two of its units late last month and has agreed to acquire a packaging company.

St. Joseph, Mo.-based Schurpack Inc. is scheduled to join the Grace packaging line in the second quarter. The transaction is subject to Grace board approval. Terms were not disclosed.

In unrelated moves, W.R. Grace is selling its specialty polymers business for $147 million to National Starch and Chemical Co. of Bridgewater, N.J. It also sold a unit that makes cocoa.

The specialty polymers division has 325 employees and had sales of $73 million last year. The business produces adhesives, coating, encapsulants and polymer thick films. The products are used for circuit and component assembly and medical and industrial assembly applications.

National Starch and Chemical makes adhesives, resins, specialty chemicals, electronic materials and specialty industrial and food starches. It had sales of $2.5 billion last year.

Schurpack, a division of Schur Group of Horsens, Denmark, had sales of about $20 million last year. The firm coextrudes and converts film for the institutional and retail food markets. Its top product is plastic laminate packaging materials that are converted into cook-in bags for the food market.

``This transaction will merge the strong profitable position that Schurpack holds in this growing market segment throughout the Americas with the advanced technology and global leadership of our Cryovac packaging business,'' J. Gary Kaenzig, senior vice president of W.R. Grace and president of its Grace Packaging unit, said in a news release.

Kaenzig said W.R. Grace expects demand for cook-in packaging to increase significantly in the next several years.

``We see a global market of $100 million per year,'' said Chuck Suits, spokesman for W.R. Grace.

Cook-in foods are specially packaged meats and entrees that are cooked in a bag or on a steam rack in hot water. The method minimizes preparation time for food-service operations and supermarkets. The packaging also extends the foods' shelf life.

``This is more efficient than hot air, like convection ovens,'' Suits said.

Schurpack has 65 employees at its St. Joseph plant and also extrudes film for meat, cheese and hygienic packaging applications.

Suits would not disclose the number of extrusion lines or the capacity at the plant.

Grace acquired Schurpack's sister company, Schurpack Multiflex, in 1994 for more than $40 million. That acquisition gave the Boca Raton, Fla., firm seven packaging plants in Europe.

Suits said W.R. Grace always is investing in its core businesses. The firm produces packaging materials under the registered trade names of Cryovac, Formpac and Omicron.

Grace Packaging has annual sales of about $2 billion and has about 11,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Its packaging division also serves markets for housewares, hardware, toys, games, tapes, compact discs, paper products and medical devices.