The US-based Ball Corporation has reported that its first quarter profits for the group's packaging segment are up nearly $4 million (€4.4 million), while sales had only risen marginally.Earnings in the segment were $55.8 million compared to $51.9 million in the first quarter of 2001. Sales were $753.3 million compared to $752.7 million a year ago.
"Sales and earnings in our plastic container operations were up more than 25 percent over a year ago, and while our sales in China were lower due to the rationalization actions we are taking there, China recorded a slight profit for the quarter after recording a loss in the first quarter of 2001," David Hoover, Ball CEO, said. "Metal beverage container results were down slightly as we sold higher cost inventory manufactured in the fourth quarter of last year when some of our operations were curtailed to reduce inventories. Metal food container results were essentially even with last year's record first quarter levels."
Hoover also said plastic container results were boosted by the addition of two plants acquired at the end of 2001 from Wis-Pak, and strong demand for soft drink and water bottles throughout Ball's system of plants. He said results from China were improved largely due to the restructuring actions Ball is taking related to its operations there. Beverage can sales were similar to the first quarter a year ago, despite pre-buying by some customers in the fourth quarter in advance of a price increase. Hoover said he expects significantly improved beverage can results for the remainder of the year due to higher pricing, lower inventory costs and plants operating at full capacity in order to meet the demand for cans.