Swiss packaging and chemical giant Alusuisse-Lonza Holding Ltd. announced May 2 it has reached an agreement to purchase Wheaton Industries Inc., a U.S. packaging maker. The purchase price is ``in excess of $400 million,'' according to A-L. The agreement will be presented to Wheaton shareholders May 21, and is scheduled to be complete by the end of the month, according to Thomas Clardy, vice president for human relations for Wheaton. The deal also is subject to approval of U.S. regulators.
``This will give us great access to world markets through the Alusuisse presence,'' Clardy said. ``It will also give us access to capital and to the liquidity our shareholders have said they want.''
A-L will gain processing capabilities in blow molding, injection molding and glassmaking, and executives boasted that the combination will create a powerhouse in pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging.
``Wheaton's impressive reputation in and share of these markets, which have been built up over the last 108 years, will make us the world's leading packaging supplier to the pharmaceutical industry with the widest range of product offerings,'' said T.M. Tschopp, chief executive officer of the A-L Group.
A-L, headquartered in Zurich, and with annual sales of about $6 billion, operates in three arenas: making paper and plastic packaging, chemicals and aluminum for packaging and other markets.
A-L's North American plastics processing holdings include Therma-Plate Corp., a South Plainfield, N.J., manufacturer of disposable ovenable trays, and Lawson Mardon Packaging, a flexible packaging firm acquired in January 1994 from Lawson Mardon Group Ltd. in Toronto.
The Wheaton acquisition comes after Wheaton was courted throughout much of 1994 and 1995 by Paris-based packaging giant CarnaudMetalbox. The CMB-Wheaton liaison, however was never consummated, and early this year CMB, with about $5 billion in annual sales, merged with Crown Cork & Seal of Philadelphia, to form the world's largest packaging company. The breakdown of the CMB-Wheaton deal made the A-L purchase possible.
Wheaton, based in Millville, N.J., makes glass and blow molded plastic packaging for the health-care, pharmaceutical, personal-care, and other markets, and injection molds caps and closures and automotive parts. The company had 1995 sales of about $450 million from continuing operations.
The firm has plants in the United States, France, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and China.
Wheaton Plastic Products, the Millville-based plastic packaging portion of the company, tied for ninth place in Plastics News' 1995 ranking of North American blow molders, with $200 million in annual sales.
The firm also tied for 112th in the 1996 survey of North American inection molders, with sales of $36 million.
Wheaton operates blow molding plants in Millville and Mays Landing, N.J.; Centralia and Des Plaines, Ill.; Youngsville, N.C.; and Cayey, Puerto Rico. Its injection molding facilities are in Millville, and Springfield, Ky.
With Wheaton, A-L's packaging activities will employ more than 17,000 worldwide and generate sales of more than $3 billion - more than 20 percent from the pharmaceutical sector.
A-L spokesman Christoph Abt said the acquisition will not include some operations that Wheaton had previously identified as discontinued operations, but he did not have details on those units.