The world just got closer to plastic beer bottles.
In a stock-swap between two French companies, PET blow molding machine maker Groupe Sidel is merging with Gebo Industries SA. Gebo manufactures conveying systems and designs complete production lines for the world's largest brewers.
Both companies, which are traded on the Paris Stock Exchange, announced the deal July 23. The swap exchanges 21 shares of Sidel, based in Le Havre, for 10 shares of Strasbourg-based Gebo.
PET slowly has made inroads into beer packaging, notably in Australia, where beer bottles with a PET/polyethylene naphthalate blend were introduced last year.
Although beer, dominated by glass bottles and metal cans, has been a difficult market for blow molded plastic bottles to tap, the mere mention of PET beer bottles causes investors to froth with excitement over Sidel's stock. Earlier this year, Sidel's stock price jumped by 10 percent after Gebo officials made public comments that PET beer packaging could become reality in the next year or two, according to a report from Credit Suisse First Boston Ltd.
Merging with Gebo gives Sidel an important inroad into the beer market, according to Bertrand Guillet, Sidel's spokesman. Sixty percent of Gebo's sales come from brewers, he said.
``Conveyors are very important because the productivity and flow depends on the conveying system,'' Guillet said in a July 24 telephone interview from Sidel's Paris office.
Guillet said Gebo serves the world's five biggest brewers, and eight of the top 10.
``We are going to convert brewers more easily to PET,'' he said. ``Gebo certainly should be able to convince brewers that it's a good material.''
The Credit Suisse First Boston report called Gebo's prediction of PET beer bottles in two years ``the most confident we have heard.''
PET still must overcome technological challenges and potential consumer resistance, the report said.
In North America, Gebo owns a subsidiary in Laval, Quebec, called Gebo Industries (Canada) Inc. On Jan. 1, Gebo announced a move into the United States by purchasing Aidlin Automation Corp., a conveyor firm in Bradenton, Fla. Aidlin, which makes vacuum air conveyors, has been renamed Gebo Corp. USA.
Packaging analyst Tim Burns, managing director of McDonald & Co. Securities Inc. of Cleveland, said Sidel is a high-profile French company. ``They're one of the darlings of the French [stock] market,'' Burns said.
Under the stock swap, Gebo is now a subsidiary of Sidel.