LONDON — Plastics operations, including packaging and laminates, are expected to be among the most attractive noncore businesses earmarked by BTR plc for a massive sell-off by the end of 1998.
The planned £2.8 billion ($4.5 billion) sale of BTR's profitable packaging and materials division includes blow molder Continental PET Technologies Inc. of Florence, Ky., and Australia-based ACI's PET divisions around the world.
In addition, London-based BTR plans to sell its U.S. plastic laminate business, Formica Corp. of Wayne, N.J., with units in Europe and China, and its Australian sister division Laminex Pty. Ltd.
Tim Adams, a diversified industrials analyst at London brokerage house Greig Middleton & Co. Ltd., said the BTR operations will fit well with other companies with specialization in the same field.
He said many of the units slated for sale are profitable and will command good prices.
Potential bidders for the PET operations include Schmalbach-Lubeca AG of Ratingen, Germany, which last year bought the Manchester, Mich.-based plastic container division of Johnson Controls Inc.; and recent U.S. PET newcomer Ball Corp. of Muncie, Ind.
BTR announced the first phase of its restructuring a year ago, at the time identifying automotive parts, power drives, process controls and packaging/materials as core activities. It also planned to retain engineering, building products, and polymer engineering units.
BTR's phase-two plan involves the sacrifice of its star performing packaging units including the expanding Continental PET empire in North America, Mexico, Hungary, and Brazil. BTR said Continental PET's operations employ hot-fill and multilayer PET bottle technology, and include eight plants in the United States, plus operations in Hungary, Mexico and Brazil.
In China, BTR has two PET joint venture operations. It has an 80 percent share in Beijing Great Wall Plastics Co., which it established in 1996, plus a 70 percent stake in ACI Qingdao Plastics Packaging Co. Ltd. at Qingdao.
In the Netherlands, BTR's packaging division has PET wide-mouthed jar molder Skillpack BV of Etten-Leur. In Australia, Sydney-based ACI's plastics divisions include PET blow molder Blowpack, injection molder ACI Closures and the recycling firm Petalite.
ACI operations also include highly profitable glass packaging businesses in Australia, the United Kingdom and Asia.
On the materials side, laminate operations include Laminex and Formica. The units had been run from Australia, but recently switched to U.S. control, following a ``significant decline in profits'' in the first half of 1997 and a change in senior management, according to BTR.
The laminates group also includes Formica plants in northern England, Spain and southern France as well as Asia, including China. Formica has eight plants in the United States. BTR acquired Formica through its Melbourne, Australia, subsidiary, BTR Nylex in 1994.
BTR's packaging and materials group reported half-year profits to June 30 down 8 percent to about $200 million.
Sales dropped 2 percent to $1.1 billion.
BTR also plans to sell its building products unit, which is largely devoted to metal components, concrete pipe, and door and window seals; and its polymerics group, which chiefly produces rubber hose and belting.