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Vivant buys stake in Vietnamese firm

CALGARY, ALBERTA—Vivant Group Inc. has completed a deal that could lead to production of PET water bottles in Vietnam.

The Calgary firm bought a 72 percent interest in AmViet Development Corp., a holding firm with a majority interest in AmViet Mineral Water Co. Vivant will provide C$540,000 (US$386,000) for AmViet Mineral Water's water bottling operation, which if successful, would require PET bottles made in Vietnam.

Vivant claimed AmViet Development has a license from the Vietnamese government to make as many as 44 million PET bottles a year. Officials did not provide a timetable for the proposed PET bottle program or the start of a water bottling operation.

Vivant owns Petco Manufacturing Inc., a Calgary firm that recently started making PET preforms and bottles.

C&H Packaging gets bond for expansion

MERRILL, WIS. — C&H Packaging Inc. will use a $7 million industrial revenue bond to fund expansion of its Merrill-based packaging operation.

C&H will use a big part of the investment to produce stand-up, zippered pouches for pet foods, snacks, cosmetics and other markets, President John Clark said in a telephone interview.

The firm recently entered pouch markets after acquiring converting machinery and, by the end of the year, will add an eight-color press, auxiliary equipment and boost manufacturing space by about 37 percent to 100,000 square feet. The city of Merrill issued the industrial revenue bond, which has a low interest rate because the interest is tax-exempt.

Clark said demand for stand-up, gusseted pouches is growing. Firms that have introduced such pouches tout their materials savings as a key advantage.

Sister company American Plastics Co. is installing an eight-layer film extrusion line at Rhinelander, Wis., this year to give it more flexibility in materials combinations used by C&H and other customers. C&H's other products include PET laminates, lidding films and meat packaging.

Kerr seeing benefits of 1996 restructuring

LANCASTER, PA. — Kerr Group Inc.'s 1996 restructuring continued to show operational benefits, but the company faces ongoing negotiations with debt holders.

For its fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, Kerr had profit of $1.1 million from continuing operations before unusual items, interest and income taxes. The continuing operations lost $578,000 for the comparable 1995 quarter. The improvement primarily was due to sales of higher-margin products and lower costs, D. Gordon Strickland, president and chief executive officer, said in a March 31 news release.

Kerr generated profit from continuing operations for each month from June to December, after recording monthly losses from January to May.

No material change has occurred in debt holder relations. The holders acquired the debt in November and have wanted to exchange all of the debt for common stock.

For 1996, Kerr Group reported a loss of $22.2 million on sales of $107.4 million. The result included a $10 million charge for moving headquarters to Lancaster from Los Angeles and relocating the wide-mouth jar operations to Bowling Green, Ky., from Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and a $1.6 million charge, mostly in the fourth quarter, for financing costs and fee reimbursements to prospective lenders.

Bermo grows with Calif. warehouse

HAYWARD, CALIF. — Circle Pines, Minn., injection molder and metal fabricator Bermo Inc. has expanded to a larger California warehouse and value-added-assembly site to better serve Silicon Valley customers.

In March, Bermo relocated 14 miles to an 87,500-square-foot Hayward facility that now employs 26 and may reach 40-50 workers by midsummer, according to David Sullivan, plant manager. Bermo had established a 28,600-square-foot warehouse in Fremont, Calif., in January 1996.

Bermo ships most plastic parts directly to customers from Minnesota. The California facility supplies just-in-time demand-pull deliveries to the Union City and Milpitas, Calif., facilities of Sun Microsystems Inc.

Plastiflex boosts molding, extrusion

ORANGEVILLE, ONTARIO—Plastiflex Canada Inc. recently expanded its injection molding capacity for vacuum fittings and added a third shift in its extrusion operation.

Plastiflex spent about C$3 million (US$2.16 million) to build an 83,000-square-foot facility in Orangeville and to install three new injection presses and related equipment. The firm relocated from a smaller plant in Orangeville late last year, Plastiflex general manager Richard Gillespie said in a telephone interview.

Its eight injection presses, with clamping forces of 80-260 tons, mainly mold rigid PVC fittings for central vacuum cleaning equipment manufacturers. Gillespie said its sales growth throughout North America spurred the expansion. The presses run three shifts a day.

Plastiflex's sales of crushproof hose also are rising so it added a third extrusion shift. Its hose products include types containing electrical conduit to power vacuum heads, for which its parent company in Belgium holds patents.

It makes crushproof hose out of polyethylene for the vacuum cleaner, swimming pool, floor-care and industrial markets. Most of its products are proprietary, Gillespie said.

Gillespie estimated Plastiflex Canada's annual sales at about C$15 million (US$10.8 million). It is a subsidiary of Plastiflex Europe NV, a private company based in Paal Beringen, Belgium. Plastiflex Co. Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., is a sister company with three plants in the United States. Other Plastiflex operations are in England, Spain, Australia, Italy and South Africa.

Plastiflex Canada recently hired 15 new employees to boost its staff to about 100.

PET perform maker targeting Europe

VERBANIA, ITALY—An international joint venture company in Italy is adding 198.5 million pounds per year of new bottle-grade PET resin capacity to serve Europe's fast-reviving PET market.

Italpet Preform SpA, a $10 million enterprise owned jointly by Marubeni Corp. of Tokyo, the Chandaria group of India and the Italian engineering and chemical M&G group, launched its PET resin and injection molded preforms plant at Verbania, in northern Italy, this month.

The new facility will turn out up to 110 million pounds per year of bottle preforms, Italpet President Hiko Kawashima said.

The joint venture originally was formed in 1995 with Marubeni and Chandaria each holding a 37.5 percent share and M&G taking a 25 percent stake through its engineering subsidiary, Sinco SpA. M&G also produces PET resin through its subsidiary, Cobarr SpA, which has production capacity of about 308 million pounds per year.

The new Verbania plant is targeting the beverage bottle market in southeastern Europe, Kawashima said. He estimated that the current European market for bottle-grade PET is roughly 1.54 billion pounds per year out of a total PET market amounting to about 1.98 billion pounds per year.

He acknowledged that demand in the region was down last year. Currency exchange rate movements also left European PET uncompetitive against new sources in Asia. But Italpet expects to take advantage of the current European market upturn, and to benefit from what it anticipates will be sustained recovery.

Briefly ...

Intertape Polymer Group Inc. of Montreal sold retail sales assets of its Tape Inc. unit to United Tape Co. of Cumming, Ga. The sale did not include film or sheet extrusion equipment, according to Intertape Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Melbourne Yull. The assets did not fit Intertape's industrial marketing strategy.