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Packing giant Berry Plastics Group Inc. is preparing to go public.
The company plans to raise up to $500 million in an initial public offering of it shares. It will use part of that revenue to pay down debt, according to a March 23 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The filing did not include how many shares Berry plans to issue or the expected price of these shares. It also did not name an underwriter.
Berry, based in Evansville, Ind., is currently owned by investment funds associated with Apollo Group Management LLC and Graham Partners Inc. After the offering is completed, Apollo will retain majority voting power.
More than 400 of Berry’s more than 16,000 employees own equity in the company. As of Dec. 31, 2011, more than 20 percent of fully diluted equity was owned by employees.
The filing did not list Berry’s preferred ticker symbol or what exchange it planned to list on.
Reducing debt is a key reason for the IPO. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the end of the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2012, Berry had a total indebtedness of $4.56 billion, with $29 million in cash and cash equivalents.
The company has piled on debt in recent years as it has grown through acquisition. In its filing, the company said it is “one of the most active acquirers of plastic packaging businesses globally.”
The company has made more than 30 acquisitions since 1988, 10 of them in the past five years. Last year, Berry purchased stretch film producer Linpac Packaging Filmco Inc. for $19 million and bought Rexam plc’s specialty closures business for $360 million. It also consolidated six of its plants.
Berry has 88 plants in the U.S. and operates in 13 locations internationally.
Berry Plastics was founded in 1967 as Imperial Plastics. It became Berry Plastics when it was bought in 1983 by Jack Berry Sr.
Since then, it has become an industry powerhouse. According to Plastics News’ rankings, the company is the largest injection molder in North America and is the third-largest film and sheet maker. It’s also ranked No. 5 in thermoforming and No. 12 in blow molding.
The company divides its business into three categories. The largest, rigid plastics, includes containers, food-service items and closures, and had sales of $2.3 billion in 2011. Engineered materials includes specialty tapes, adhesives, and polyethylene-based film products, and netted $1.45 billion.
The smallest segment, flexible packaging, includes high-barrier and multilayer films and printed bags and pouches, and made $796 million.
Berry serves more than 13,000 customers worldwide.
The company has posted losses of more than $100 million in four of the past five years; in 2009, it posted a net income of $152 million.
Berry had sales of $4.56 billion for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2011, up from $4.25 billion in 2010. But, it posted a loss $299 million in 2011, compared with $113 million in 2010, partly due to higher operating expenses.