AUSSIE FIRM TARGETS ASIAN BOTTLE MARKET

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australia's Southcorp Holdings Ltd. plans to spend A$20 million (US$15.6 million) expanding its PET packaging presence in Asia this year.

Southcorp spokesman Glen Cunningham said the investment will include as much as A$15 million (US$11.7 million) for a new Asian PET plant and about A$5 million (US$3.9 million) to expand Southcorp's existing PET operation in Malaysia. Those plans are awaiting approval of the relevant Asian government authorities.

Adelaide-based Southcorp entered the Asian PET market in 1995 when it acquired the blow molding division of Smorgon Consolidated Industries Pty. Ltd. of Melbourne. The purchase included five PET plants in Australia and a 50 percent interest in Malaysian PET manufacturer Kian Joo Can Factory Berhad.

Kian Joo Can has contracts with Coca-Cola and Pepsi in Malaysia and Singapore, and also exports product to Hong Kong and China. The venture, which has outperformed Southcorp's expectations, requires additional capacity to meet the demand, Cunningham said at the International Association of Packaging Institutes conference in Melbourne.

He would not say whether the new Asian PET plant will be a joint venture. Nor would he disclose its location, except to say that it would not be in Malaysia.

He said Southcorp, which recorded operating profit of A$115.3 million (US$89.9 million) for 1995-96, had identified the Asian PET market as a key area for future expansion.