LONDON — U.S. closure injection molder Portola Packaging Inc. is planning a new plant in England, and has signed a supply deal with Plysu plc, a leading British dairy packaging blow molder. The San Jose, Calif., molder will open its first European plant in Doncaster, England, initially with about 25 presses, said President Jack Watts in a Dec. 12 telephone interview.
The 60,000-square-foot plant should begin operating early in 1997, according to Glenn Heighington, sales and technical manager of the firm's United Kingdom subsidiary, Portola Packaging Ltd. of Knottingley, England.
Portola Packaging Inc., a publicly traded firm, has 10 plants in the United States, three in Canada and two in Mexico. The company, a leading supplier of tamper-evident plastic closures, established a U.K. division in May. When it announced that move, officials said the firm would use British contract molders ``prior to establishing a Portola manufacturing operation.''
The U.K. division already is supplying the local dairy, fruit juice and bottled water market with almost 17 million closures per week, Heighington said. Portola also supplies carton closures for fresh juices to customers in other countries of Western Europe, including Germany, France and Austria.
The company will cease to use subcontractors when its Doncaster plant starts operating, Watts said.
Plysu last month sold Portola five Husky injection presses for an undisclosed sum.
Under the Plysu deal, Portola will use those machines to make Plysu's induction heat-seal and Tearband Screw closures used for its dairy containers, according to Plysu finance director Stephen Nobbs.
Watts said the Doncaster plant initially will have a variety of machines, including Sandretto and Husky presses. Eventually the firm expects to standardize the plant to all Van Dorn Demags, as it has in the United States, Watts said.
Machines at the Doncaster plant will have average clamping forces of about 300 tons, Heighington said. Neither he nor Watts could provide a figure for total investment in the plant; Watts said the company already has a significant number of molds and machines operating at local subcontractors.
Apart from Plysu, Britain's leading molder of lightweight plastic dairy bottles, Portola already supplies closures for most other U.K. blow molders in this field.
The market for the snap-twist type of closure has been driven by consumer and supermarket demand for nonleak, easy-to-apply and reseal closures, Heighington said. The U.K. dairy market is changing from high density polyethylene to low density PE closures.
Portola has not reported results for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31. For the nine-month period ended May 31, the firm reported a loss of $703,000 on sales of $115.2 million, compared to a profit of $377,000 on sales of $86.5 million for the same period a year ago.
The loss largely was due to a $1.3 million charge against earnings in October 1995 in connection with loan fees and other costs associated with early retirement of debt.
Meanwhile, Plysu, with plants in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, expects to announce new European expansion within the next few months.
The Milton Keynes, England-based firm has entered and is growing fast in the competitive toiletries and personal-care packaging market. It is committed to further growth in this area, but also is considering expansion, likely through acquisition, in one of its other sectors — industrial containers or housewares — Nobbs said.
Since Plysu raised its profile in the personal-care container field with the November 1995 acquisition of Welsh molder AMK Plastics Ltd., the 70,000-square-foot Welsh plant has doubled its capacity for PET containers.
Plysu invested heavily in equipping the AMK factory at Llantrisant, Wales, which made cosmetic, toiletry and car-care bottles. It doubled capacity with four new Aoki PET blow molding machines and added several more Krupp Kautex units. Today AMK has about 30 presses making bottles as large as 1 liter, and reported about 7.5 million (US$12 million) in annual sales.
That takeover, which should mean Plysu's personal-care packaging volume will rise by 20 percent by next year, brought the firm capacity to process containers in PET, glycol-modified PET and PVC.
Plysu promises new growth in PET and personal care, where the firm has a 5-6 percent U.K. market share.
``We have a very small presence in what is a very large market,'' said Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Macintyre.
Plysu also may expand in Western and Eastern Europe, and is studying areas including Poland and Hungary.
Managing editor Don Loepp contributed to the above story.