Ball Corp. is closing its smallest PET container plant, to be a low-cost producer in a very competitive market.
The Muncie, Ind., firm announced Feb. 3 that it is shutting its South Hill, Va., facility immediately. Ball spokesman Scott McCarty said the company will transfer the facility's three production lines to other Ball plants.
Ball bought the South Hill operation in July as part of a deal with Brunswick Container Corp. Initially Ball wanted to keep the 70,000-square-foot South Hill plant running, but McCarty said it is not viable for Ball's growing customer base in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Ball already has closed a 250,000-square-foot former Brunswick Container plant in East Brunswick, N.J.
Ball opened a new PET container plant late last year in Delran, N.J., McCarty said by telephone. It and Ball's Baldwinsville, N.Y., plant are better situated to supply Honickman Group of Philadelphia and other customers in the Northeast. Honickman had owned the Brunswick operations.
The Delran facility, at nearly 500,000 square feet, is Ball's biggest PET container plant, about twice the average size of its other facilities. Its other plants are in Chino, Calif., and Ames, Iowa.
Ball's PET business showed a loss for the nine months ended Sept. 30, but the loss was smaller than a year earlier, the company noted in its third-quarter report. It said PET operations were ``near break-even'' in the third quarter. PET container sales represented about 6 percent of total sales in the 1997 period, about triple what they were a year earlier.
Ball ranked 30th in Plastics News' 1997 survey of North American blow molders, with $60 million in relevant sales for 1996. Those sales included the former Brunswick operations.
Ball expanded its Asian packaging business last year when it acquired M.C. Packaging (Hong Kong) Ltd. M.C. Packaging makes aluminum and steel cans, plastic packaging and other packaging goods at plants in China and Hong Kong.
Ball also announced Feb. 4 that it will relocate its corporate headquarters from Muncie to Broomfield, Colo., near the end of this year. The firm's packaging operations, which generate 85 percent of its total sales, already based in Colorado.