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Rigid plastics manufacturer Carter Holt Harvey Packaging of Auckland, New Zealand, plans to expand its presence significantly in Australia's food-processing sector, following its purchase of Sydney-based Associated Plastics Industries Pty. Ltd.

Carter Holt, a division of Auckland-based diversified manufacturer Carter Holt Harvey Ltd., claims to hold 30 percent of New Zealand's rigid plastics market, operating four plastics plants throughout the country.

The division supplies rigid polypropylene and polyethylene containers for consumer goods, such as cleaning products, fast foods and dairy products.

Doug McKay, Carter Holt Harvey Packaging chief executive officer, would not disclose the purchase price of API, but said the company provides a strong base for Australian expansion.

Carter Holt already exports some product to Australia and the API purchase will allow the company to improve its product range and service.

McKay said while API, with one plant in Sydney, is a much smaller company than Carter Holt, they are ``very complementary'' businesses.

``In some cases, we supply a company in New Zealand and API supplies the same company in Australia.''

McKay said API had sales of about one-fifth the size of Carter Holt's plastics business.

Carter Holt has annual sales of NZ$550 million (US$382.5 million ). Plastic packaging is a ``substantial'' part of the total, but he would not provide a detailed breakdown.

McKay said API's current customer base is mainly household and industrial chemical packaging, with only a limited presence in food containers. But he said Carter Holt identified Australia's food-processing industry as a major growth area.

``We are big in the food industry in New Zealand and, while we supply some companies in Australia, we have had a lot of encouragement from others to come across,'' he said.

``By targeting certain food processors and manufacturers in markets we already supply in New Zealand ... we anticipate significant growth in revenues from new Australian customers.''

McKay said Carter Holt will continue to export some products to Australia.