REXAM EXITS NAMPAK DAIRY BOTTLE JOINT VENTURE

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LONDON — Rexam plc has exited another plastics business, selling its 50 percent share of a dairy bottle venture to partner Nampak Ltd. of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nampak bought Rexam's share of BlowMocan Holdings Ltd. for 2 million ($3.24 million). BlowMocan, with 32 million ($51 million) in annual sales, molds high density polyethylene dairy and fruit juice containers.

London-based Rexam joined Nampak in the venture in February 1995, with Rexam contributing its plastic milk bottle subsidiary Bowater Polysystems. The firm operated under the name BlowMocan Polysystems Ltd.

BlowMocan has one bottle plant at its Milton Keynes, England, headquarters, plus another at Consett in northern England and an in-house bottle blowing unit at the Unigate dairy at Kidlington, England. Until recently, it also had an in-house dairy unit in Scotland.

The firm operates 50 plastics processing machines, including two injection presses used to make closures. The rest chiefly are Uniloy blow molding machines, with three Liberty machines used to produce non-handled containers, according to Mike Chapman, BlowMocan finance director.

Nampak, which managed the joint venture, has 120 plants in plastic bag, glass and plastic container, paperboard, and metal packaging and holds a 43 percent packaging market share in South Africa. Twelve of its plants blow mold containers.

The United Kingdom venture was the group's first abroad since South African investment controls were eased, John Bortolan, Nampak's executive director, said in a telephone interview from Johannesburg.

He said Nampak intends to share in the growth in Britain's plastics container market, particularly in the dairy sector. But, he added, his group may develop its packaging business in Europe, not necessarily only in the dairy sector, and possibly through acquisition.

Commenting on its pull-out, Rexam stated: ``In a difficult and highly competitive marketplace, it is now considered an appropriate time for one of the joint venture partners to take full control of the business.''

BlowMocan, which is keeping its external debt of 4 million ($6.48 million), expects to achieve a 24 million ($38.8 million) in sales in 1997, Chapman said.

He explained that the sales drop will result largely from the firm's loss of its Scottish in-house dairy bottle blowing contract after the March bankruptcy of its client Scottish Pride of Glasgow.

In the past two years BlowMocan has invested 12 million ($19.4 million), primarily to buy eight new Uniloy blow molding machines. New ancillary equipment included automatic baggers, trimmers and conveyor systems.

BlowMocan is preparing to take advantage of an explosion in smaller-sized plastic dairy containers, as supermarkets replace 1-liter and 1-pint cartons with plastic bottles, Chapman said. The firm already has invested in design work and new molds to meet the new demand.

``We're well-prepared for the migration out of smaller cartons to plastic containers,'' Chapman said.

BlowMocan, under Nampak, also expects to expand the number of agreements to mold bottles for dairies, he said. The firm anticipates announcing that it has secured in-house dairy contracts for two new locations, with a third plant outside for nonexclusive bottle production very soon.

Rexam now has disposed of half the assets it had earmarked earlier this year as noncore businesses.

Last month the company sold its North American blow molding units to Silgan Plastics Corp. of Chesterfield, Mo.