Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Containers U.S.A. Inc. plans to acquire Cott Corp.'s U.S. PET bottle operations. Cott, which claims to be the world's largest retailer-brand beverage supplier, agreed to sell its injection molding plant in Leland, N.C., and blow molding operations at Cott bottling sites in San Antonio, Texas, and Tampa, Fla., according to Schmalbach-Lubeca director of marketing Shelley Steele.
Steele said in a telephone interview that the firms won't disclose terms of the deal, which is scheduled to close this spring. She said the size of the operations also will remain confidential.
Toronto-based Cott announced Feb. 17 that it had signed a letter of intent for the sale in order to free cash assets for deployment in its core businesses. Cott President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Weise noted in a news release that the sale will align it "with a world leader in plastic container technology innovations."
Cott is a relative newcomer to PET bottle manufacturing. It said in 1997 that it would begin producing the bottles in North America to cut freight costs associated with shipping empty bottles to its plants. Cott had first entered the field in 1996 when it opened a PET bottle facility at its Pontefract, England, facility.
Cott officials were unavailable to describe the firm's PET bottle operations in the United States and elsewhere. Steele said her firm's deal is strictly for U.S. PET operations. Manchester, Mich.-based Schmalbach-Lubeca, which has supplied PET bottles to Cott despite the latter's entry into their production, will continue to supply Cott from the acquired operations.
Cott reported sales of US$990.8 million for the year ended Jan. 1, up about 1 percent from the previous 12-month period. Its net profit was US$18.5 million vs. a loss exceeding US$100 million a year ago. U.S. sales last year were US$596.8 million.
Cott has been shedding non-core businesses, including Watt Design Group, Destination Products International, beverage operations in Featherstone, England, and Australia, and its stake in Menu Foods. Cott's share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange closed at C$9.15 (US$6.31), up 5 cents (US$0.035) on Feb. 17. In the past year it has traded between C$10.25 (US$7.07) and C$3 (US$2.07).
In the meantime, Schmalbach-Lubeca may be nearing a change in ownership.
Viag AG, the majority owner of Schmalbach-Lubeca AG of Ratingen, Germany, expects to finalize a merger with Veba AG of Dusseldorf, Germany, this summer. Schmalbach-Lubeca AG is the parent of Schmalbach-Lubeca U.S.A.
When they announced the merger in September, Viag and Veba said they eventually would shed noncore assets.
Schmalbach-Lubeca AG reported sales of US$2.7 billion for 1998. The U.S.-based subsidiary runs 20 plants in North and South America, many at customer bottling plants, and had blow molding sales of US$629 million in 1998.
Meanwhile, Schmalbach-Lubeca U.S.A. plans to open a previously announced new PET blow molding plant on the site of customer Cliffstar Corp. in Dunkirk, N.Y., before summer, according to Steele. Late last year it opened a new plant in Allentown, Pa.