An Australian plastics industry entrepreneur has just sold his third start-up company. Packaging giant RPC Group plc has bought Amber Plastics Pty. Ltd. for an undisclosed sum.
Amber, based in the Melbourne suburb of Carrum Downs, was owned by Malcolm Prior, who will remain CEO for at least two years. Amber manufactures injection molded containers for Australia’s food industry, particularly for dairy products.
Indian-born Prior and his wife, Bonnie, arrived in Australia in 1969. Prior told Plastics News by phone from Honolulu, where he and Bonnie were holidaying after the sale, he had some plastics industry experience before migrating to Australia.
His first start up was Priority Plastics Pty. Ltd., established in Melbourne in 1976. “We were the first to do in-mold labeling in blow molding in Australia,” he said.
Priority manufactured oil containers for the auto industry. Prior sold Priority to Melbourne-based packaging giant Amcor Ltd. It is now part of Pact Group, another Melbourne-based packaging giant.
In 1996, Prior launched Melbourne-based Baroda Manufacturing Pty. Ltd., which manufactures pails, lids and cartridges for the food service, building, oil, and grease industries. A decade later he sold it to Pact Group, because he was “getting a bit stale” with running the same business.
Prior said Baroda, named after his birthplace in India, was the first Australian company to do in-mold labeling for injection molded products.
When a non-compete agreement with Priority expired, Baroda also expanded into blow molding. Prior said Baroda was “very successful because we could compete with offset and screen printing” for labels.
After Baroda’s 2006 sale, Prior remained with the company for several years. It still operates as Baroda.
In May 2012, he established his third start up with Amber. Asked the name’s significance, he said: “It was just a name I liked. I tell everyone it’s the name of my first girlfriend, but that’s not so.”
Prior had not planned another start up after Baroda’s sale but “I didn’t want to retire, I wanted a bit of a challenge, so I went again.”
Prior bought land at Carrum Downs and built the factory, which he now leases to RPC with an option to purchase.
After his vacation, one of several overseas trips he and Bonnie have taken every year for the past 30 years, Prior will return to work. “I’ve got rid of the risk, but can keep working,” he said. “I have no plans to retire. There’s no need; I enjoy what I do.”
Prior would not name Amber’s sale price but said he was “extremely happy.”
He has committed to a minimum of two years with RPC and will then decide his future. While Prior “would rather not say” how old he is, he has about 50 years’ plastics industry experience.
RPC, which is based in Higham Ferrers, England, is a major player in the European plastics packaging sector and has been on a global acquisition trail in the past four years.
Peter McDonald, senior advisor with the Melbourne office of the global franchised business broker network Transworld Business Advisors (Mergers & Acquisitions), managed the Amber sale. He said Prior approached Transworld in August.
“We targeted a number of buyers. We had bids from more than one, but narrowed it down to RPC, and began exclusively dealing with them in October,” he told Plastics News.
Prior said there were three interested parties from Australia and two from overseas. The “very strong reason” he selected RPC is its commitment to retain all Amber’s 40 staff. About 20 of them have previously worked with Prior at Baroda.
He expects RPC will expand the business, but thinks it likely the Amber name will remain. RPC “might be well known in the U.K., but not in Australia,” Prior said. “But they own the Amber name.”
McDonald said Amber will be part of RPC’s Superfos division, which began after it bought Danish plastic packaging company Superfos in 2011.
McDonald said RPC’s Vision 2020 growth strategy helped Transworld identify it as a potential purchaser. Launched in 2013, the strategy’s four targets include growing outside its European base.
McDonald said RPC is very active in acquisitions and purchased its first Australian company in December, Synergy Packaging Pty. Ltd., which manufactures PET and high density polyethylene bottles, jars and containers, and closure options for the personal care, hair care, cosmetics, beauty, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage industries. Synergy is based in Tullamarine.
Established in 1991, RPC is now a global polymer processor in packaging and non-packaging markets, with an annual sales of more than 3 billion pound sterling.
In February RPC purchased Letica Corp., based in Rochester, Mich., in a deal valued at up to $640 million, adding 13 plants for manufacturing rigid plastic packaging and food service products and 1,750 employees to its five existing RPC facilities in the United States.