Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc. will take its first step into the emerging PET bottle market in China with a share of a joint venture plant being built by CarnaudMetalbox Asia Ltd. in Beijing. Crown Cork, which is merging with Paris-based CarnaudMetalbox SA, the parent company of CMB Asia, is buying a 30 percent share of the plant from China National Packaging Industrial Development Corp., the Beijing-based joint venture partner. The plant was originally planned as a metal can factory for soft drinks, but is being converted to PET bottle making by CMB.
Hans Loliger, executive vice president of Crown Cork and president of the company's plastics division, emphasized that Crown will only become involved in the joint venture after its merger with CMB becomes complete. The completion of the merger is expected Feb. 1. Until then it will be considered strictly a CMB joint venture.
``This will be our [Crown's] first involvement with plastic bottles in China,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``We have several [metal] can plants in the country.''
He said the exact production capacity of the plant will be clearer once the merger is complete, and once construction is closer to being finished sometime this summer.
CMB Asia established the joint venture with the development firm two years ago. CMB decided to switch the plant from making aluminum soft drink cans to making PET bottles for soft drinks because of a ``significant overcapacity'' of metal can production in the region, according to a company statement.
Crown Cork, the Philadelphia-based packaging giant with about $5 billion in annual sales, makes both metal cans and plastic bottles for the soft drink and other industries and will pay between $4.25 million and $6 million for its share in the $36 million Beijing plant.