Two major European packaging companies are having merger discussions that could impact two of the largest U.S. blow molding companies: Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Containers U.S.A. Inc. and Lawson Mardon Wheaton Inc.
Alusuisse Lonza Group Ltd. of Zurich, Switzerland, confirmed it is negotiating with industrial conglomerate Viag AG of Munich, Germany, on possible cooperation.
Viag is parent to Schmalbach-Lubeca; Alusuisse-Lonza owns Lawson Mardon Wheaton.
``These discussions have involved varying degrees of cooperation, and have not resulted in any concrete agreement to date,'' the Swiss company said in a brief statement. It refused to elaborate.
A Viag spokeswoman conceded the two firms have been talking, but said it is too early to comment. Viag owns a 59.8 percent stake in Schmalbach-Lubeca AG of Ratingen, Germany, which runs PET bottle, plastic and metal closure and beverage can businesses in Europe and the United States.
While the talks have covered different options, industry sources close to the companies agreed the most likely outcome is the full-blown takeover of Alusuisse-Lonza by Viag, reported London's Financial Times.
Both companies have flexible packaging and plastics closure operations, as well as interests in beverage can manufacturing. Both have glass packaging operations.
But packaging is only one business involvement of the two industrial firms. Each company has interests in chemicals and the aluminium industry, and both serve the automotive industry. Viag also has interests in energy, steel, shipping and, more recently, telecommunications.
Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Containers U.S.A. of Manchester, Mich., ranks third in Plastics News' survey of North American blow molders, with estimated blow molding sales of $629 million.
Lawson Mardon Wheaton of Millville, N.J., ranked 12th, with related sales of $210 million.
Schmalbach-Lubeca is a leading global supplier of PET preforms and bottles. Lawson Mardon Wheaton also makes PET bottles, but its range also includes extrusion and injection blow molding.
Alusuisse-Lonza reported 1998 first-half sales up 8 percent to 4.7 billion Swiss francs ($3.43 billion) with sales for Algroup Lawson Mardon, its flexible food and tobacco packaging division, rising 7.7 percent to SFr675 million ($492 million).
Viag also raised its sales for the first nine months of 1998 by 8 percent to reach 39.5 billion deutsche marks ($23.8 billion). In 1997, its packaging division recorded sales of DM11 billion ($6.3 billion).