Israeli plastics firm Keter Plastic Ltd. could be eyeing part or all of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.'s Rubbermaid products division, according to industry sources and Israeli newspaper Haaretz. That paper's July 6 story cited a $200 million price tag.
Keter of Herzliyya, Israel, is wholly owned by the Sagol family, which started the company in 1950. Keter earlier this year acquired Allibert Group of Voreppe, France, for $22 million and the assumption of $38 million in debt. That deal followed several months of speculation.
Is Rubbermaid, or part of Rubbermaid, next on Keter's plate?
``It's an intriguing idea, but an awful lot to pay for the Rubbermaid brand,'' said one industry source. ``Keter makes many of the same things that Rubbermaid makes.''
Keter's lines include garden furniture, sheds, shelving, toolboxes and storage products. Other industry sources speculated that Keter would look at parts of the Rubbermaid business, including single plants, as a method to increase its stateside manufacturing footprint. Keter could look at licensing the Rubbermaid brand as well.
Officials from Keter and Rubbermaid had little to say.
``There's nothing to discuss. We don't comment on rumors that go on in the market. There's nothing to report,'' said an official at Keter's office in Israel, in a July 7 telephone interview. ``We are continuing our normal business process. Every business is trying to grow and do well. We are doing OK. Everything that is going on is just rumors.''
But Sandy Springs, Ga.-based Newell has been busy revamping its organization, with several significant moves during the past year in its plastics operations. Newell embarked on an aggressive divestiture plan to exit low-profit-margin businesses during 2004 under Chief Executive Officer Joe Galli. On July 1, Newell announced completion of the divestiture plan with the sale of Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems Inc.
``We'll always continue to assess our portfolio,'' Susan Masten, Newell's public relations director, said July 7 when asked if a sale of any Rubbermaid assets could occur before year's end.
Galli has been driving his publicly held company to higher-profit-margin product lines. According to industry sources, Rubber- maid still has its hands in several low-margin lines, including totes and cabinets. Rubbermaid has introduced several new products aimed at higher profit margins, including Rubbermaid Pets, which targets the 64 million U.S. households that have pets. In June, it introduced a line of cooking accessories, including ladles, potato mashers and ice cream scoops.
Keter and its subsidiaries have sales offices and representatives in 56 countries, according to Dun & Bradstreet. In the United States, Keter's holdings include Home Design Products Ltd. of Alexandria, Ind., which has injection molding facilities in Indiana and North Carolina.
Keter officials said the firm will grow by acquisition and through internal growth, but that is the normal business process for Keter. Keter was No. 22 on D&B's 2003 sales-based ranking of the top industrial companies in Israel.