Ball to close can plant

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A decline in demand for three-piece metal welded food cans has
forced US-based packaging group Ball to close one of its production
facilities in Arkansas and transfer production to another nearby

Ball Corporation, the US-based supplier of metal and plastic packaging, is to close its metal food can manufacturing plant in Blytheville, Arkansas, and consolidate its operations into the company's metal food can plant in Springdale, also in Arkansas. The consolidation is expected to occur by June 2003.

Both of Ball's Arkansas plants produce three-piece welded food cans. The company has stated a decline in demand for such containers, as two-piece drawn-and-ironed steel cans have replaced three-piece welded cans, as the reason for the closure. Ball has therefore announced the installation of a two-piece manufacturing capacity at a plant in Milwaukee and provisions for additional size flexibility in its Findlay, Ohio, facility.

"Closing the Blytheville plant is necessary as we continue to balance our manufacturing capacity for the different types of metal food cans,"​ said Brian M. Cardno, president of Ball's metal food container operations. "The Blytheville plant is our smallest, both in terms of number of employees and cans produced. In order for us to compete in a very competitive industry, we need to control costs, consolidate operations and eliminate excess capacity wherever possible."

Ball is expecting to record a first quarter after-tax charge of approximately $1.3 million, or two cents per diluted share, in connection with the plant closing. Cardno said cash costs connected with the closing would be approximately $150,000 and that they expected annual after-tax cost savings of approximately $450,000 as a result of the action.

Cardno said employees at the Blytheville plant would be given the opportunity to apply for open positions at the Springdale plant and elsewhere within the company's packaging operations now and over the next several months. He said severance and outplacement services would be provided to employees of the Blytheville plant.

The Blytheville plant employs 48 people and produces 350 million cans annually on two manufacturing lines. Ball acquired the plant in 1993 when it purchased Heekin Can Company.

The Ball company also owns Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. With the addition of Ball Packaging Europe, acquired in December 2002, Ball expects sales in 2003 of approximately $5.1 billion, $4.6 billion from its packaging segments and $500 million from its aerospace and technologies segment.

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