Vitro SA de CV, Mexico's largest glassmaker, is not ready to comment yet on the pending sale of its plastics unit.
``We are negotiating this at the moment,'' spokesman Albert Chico said March 5. ``We are in the process of due diligence, and hope this will conclude at end of March.''
Founded in 1909, Vitro is one of the oldest manufacturing conglomerates in Monterrey, Mexico. It has subsidiary companies in four major businesses: flat glass, home appliances, glassware (which since last year includes the plastics business), and glass containers.
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1994, imports have eaten away at the firm's dominant market share and, to cope with its heavy debt load, Vitro is returning to its core glass-related businesses.
In the past 15 years the company has sold about 20 different businesses. In 2000, for example, the company sold its share of Vipl sticos SA de CV, an injection molder serving the appliance market, to Whirlpool Corp. for $7.1 million. On Feb. 25 Vitro announced a much bigger divestment: the sale of its 51 percent share of Vitromatic SA de CV to Whirlpool, its minority partner in the venture. Vitromatic reported 2001 sales in excess of $600 million.
Plastics may be the next to go. In a Feb. 26 story, the Wall Street Journal quoted Jose Domene Zambrano, Vitro's chief operating officer, as saying the company's plastics and medical ampuls units will be sold by July for about $80 million.
According to Vitro's fourth-quarter report, released Feb. 25, the company's plastics operations generated 2001 sales of about $56.7 million. Plastics operations include Envases Cuautitl n SA, which makes plastic containers, and Pl sticos Bosco SA de CV, which makes disposable products.
Chico declined to name potential bidders for the operations.