Film maker Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc. has received ``unsolicited expressions of interest'' to buy the firm, amid speculation that the outside party is an Israeli film and sheet producer.
According to a June 27 media report, Dor Chemicals Ltd. is talking to AET about a possible acquisition. The Haifa, Israel-based company, owned by investment firm Dankner Group, is a leading maker of oriented polypropylene film outside of North America.
Dor could not be reached for comment, but a Dor spokeswoman told another publication that it is looking at AET. The company recently bought an OPP film maker in Australia and 80 percent of the Moplefan OPP film business of Basell NV. The company said in May it was considering other firms to buy.
Analysts have speculated that a competitor was interested in purchasing Peabody, Mass.-based AET. Others say the publicly held company might be actively soliciting the possible sale through its carefully chosen words.
AET has not talked beyond what was contained in a cryptic, two-sentence statement issued June 24. One analyst following the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is likely that the company is looking to sell to a buyer unrecognized in North America.
``It's been very quiet,'' the analyst said. ``It might not be the usual suspects [looking at AET].''
A July 9 investor meeting with AET could yield more details, said equity analyst Jay Harris of New York-based Goldsmith & Harris.
``My feeling is that an approach was made to them on a friendly basis, but a firm offer has not come in,'' Harris said. ``I couldn't even speculate on names.''
AET's release also said the firm's board, working with management and company advisers, will evaluate all available options to maximize shareholder value. That led several analysts to wonder whether AET is shading its words to suggest that it is attempting to sell the company.
An AET spokeswoman did not return two phone calls seeking comment.
Packaging analyst Timothy Burns of Cranial Capital Inc. of Solon, Ohio, said a sale would not be a surprise.
The firm has had difficulty stringing together more than several quarters of profitability, despite introducing new products and cutting costs, Burns said. A difficult market for commodity film has led to those problems, he said.
``They've done everything correctly and everything they should have done,'' Burns said. ``But there's so much capacity, and there seems to be an unwillingness to pay for the differentiation of new products. The bottom line is that it's a big, ugly market growing 6 percent annually, but nobody seems to be making any good money at it.''
The company's AET Films unit, based in New Castle, Del., ranked 25th on Plastics News' most recent film and sheet ranking, with North American sales of $250 million for fiscal 2000.
Its top global OPP film competitor, ExxonMobil Chemical Co.'s films business in Macedon, N.Y., would be another logical candidate to purchase AET, Burns said. ExxonMobil could cut excess capacity and gain purchasing advantages, he said.
An ExxonMobil spokeswoman said the firm would not speculate on rumors of acquisitions.