Europe's top PVC producer, EVC International NV, has ventured outside its home continent for the first time to buy Caprihans India Ltd., a leading Indian plastic film and sheet manufacturer.
EVC also has acquired part of a former state-run East German plastic sheet business, and is closing a compounding plant in England.
EVC's German subsidiary, VKW, is buying 51 percent control of Caprihans for 30 million Dutch guilders ($15.5 million).
Caprihans is listed on Bombay and New Delhi stock exchanges; 40 percent of its shares are owned by the Indian real estate conglomerate Kalpa-Taru Group.
The acquisition is in line with EVC's strategy of strengthening its competitive position in rigid PVC films through geographical expansion. EVC claims its total PVC resin capacity of 2.42 billion pounds already represents nearly 20 percent of overall capacity in Western Europe.
The company expects to upgrade production at the Indian firm, including two calendering lines. One will be relocated from Germany next year, according to an EVC spokeswoman in Brussels.
Caprihans, based in Mumbai, near Bombay, makes rigid and flexible PVC film, hollow corrugated polypropylene copolymer sheet, paper and decorative plastic laminates.
Caprihans operates five PVC film plants with capacity of around 33 million pounds. It claims a 25 percent share of the rapidly growing Indian rigid film market, and 15 percent in flexible films. The company exports to Russia, the Middle East and Africa, according to EVC.
EVC's corporate activities are coordinated from Brussels, Belgium, but the holding company is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where it is listed on the local stock exchange.
EVC had 1996 sales of $1.07 billion, but its polymers operations suffered a $28 million operating loss after being squeezed by record-low PVC prices and rising ethylene and other raw material costs early in the year.
In Europe, EVC announced that it bought the fixed assets of Orbitaplast GmbH of Golzaw, near Leipzig, from the German state privatization agency Bundesanstalt fur vereiningungsbedingte Sonderaufgaben.
The assets include a single plant with three rigid PVC film lines and potential capacity of 17.6 million pounds per year. The material is being used for thermoformed food and nonfood packaging, said an EVC spokeswoman.
EVC allocated 6 million deutsche marks ($3.43 million) for the deal, including an undisclosed takeover price and a financial commitment to invest in the operation. That includes modernizing the plant and debottlenecking lines to achieve full potential capacity. The plant employs 50.
Orbitaplast, which was divided up after 1989, originally had four divisions: pipes, profiles, polyethylene film and rigid PVC film.
Marino Uberti, EVC packaging film business manager, called the business a ``platform from which EVC will further develop and expand its presence in the Eastern European packaging film market.''
EVC already owns a 55 million-pound-per-year-rigid film production plant at Caglieri, Italy, and additional film capacity in Staufen, Germany.
On the compounding front, the company's EVC Compounds Ltd. unit, based in Helsby, England, announced plans to close its Hillhouse, England, plant, with a loss of 36 jobs. But EVC also expects to spend £10 million ($16.2 million) to raise capacity 25 percent at the 88.2 million-pound-per-year Helsby plant by the year 2000.
The Hillhouse plant, near Blackpool, has compounding capacity for 42.8 million pounds per year. The firm will move two lines from Hillhouse to Helsby, and will upgrade auxiliary equipment and computer controls.
``We need to keep our cost base competitive and to respond to market demand,'' said a company spokesman, adding that demand is strong enough for the company to sell all that it can make.
Last year, EVC invested about $4 million to add computer control equipment at Hillhouse at a paste PVC plant. None of that outfit's 110 workers will be laid off.
EVC produces PVC resin at eight sites in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. The compnay also manufactures ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer, PVC compounds, films, foils and pipe.