Global consumer packaging group Rexam plc is in the process of selling its food plastic packaging operations in Europe.
Earlier this month, South African-owned packaging thermoformer Sharp Interpack snapped up London-based Rexam's food tray and basket molding plant in Yate, England, for an undisclosed sum.
The business, which employs 150 in southwest England, is a leading supplier of modified atmosphere (MAP) trays to the poultry industry and plastic baskets and trays for mushroom packaging in Britain and Ireland, as well as specialty trays for fresh meat. Rexam uses rotary thermoforming technology.
Meantime, Rexam is nearing the end of negotiations with potential buyers of its remaining two nonbarrier thin-walled food plastics businesses in Scandinavia.
Rexam announced back in June 2006 it planned to dispose of the food plastics packaging division, which had 2005 annual sales worth £65 million ($122 million). When the group announced its interim results in August, it stated: ``There has been a good deal of interest in these businesses from prospective buyers and the disposal process is proceeding to plan.''
Discussions are continuing on a plant-by-plant basis, and a deal is likely to be concluded in a matter of weeks, Rexam spokesman Andrew Mills said in mid-September. He would not identify the would-be buyer or buyers.
Bridgwater, England-based Sharp Interpack, whose owners are South African brothers Douglas and Geoffrey de Jager, said it will retain the Yate workforce and continue the plant's existing product lines. The expanding company already operates two British plants in Bridgwater and Aylesham, England, producing thermoformed packaging including fruit baskets, lidded food trays, MAP packaging and dual-ovenable meal trays.
``This is a real strategic opportunity for us. This new division fits with our existing structure, bringing a totally different but complimentary technology to our own,'' said Managing Director Declan O'Sullivan.
The Yate business will help strengthen the firm's place in the mushroom packaging market, according to Sharp's sales and marketing director Jeremy Sampson.
``There's loads of space giving us the opportunity to expand there,'' he added. His company is already a strong player in Britain and, with a sales office in the Netherlands, aims to grow strongly into continental Europe. It expects to announce a new expansion in mainland Europe within six weeks, Sampson said.
The de Jager brothers have invested around £42 million ($79 million) in Sharp Interpack over the past four years, including construction of a new £10 million ($19 million) plant and new film extrusion equipment on a central, integrated Bridgwater site, completed last year.
The Rexam disposals are in line with its aim to be a leader in more sophisticated plastic packaging for the food sector.
The company wants to focus on high-performance plastic containers for food.