In a statement Alcan said it wanted to "explore" the sale of the unit its food plastic bottle business. The company plans to concentrateits food business on the more lucrative flexible packaging market. World demand for converted flexible packaging is forecast to grow by about seven per cent to $53.5bn this year according toFreedonia, a market research group.
The unit has plants in North America and France and provides plastic bottles for juice, foodservice, energy drinks, coffee-based beverages, teas and infant formula. The unit also manufactures hot-and cold-fill containers for condiments such as ketchup, pasta sauces, relish, cheese sauces, salsa, fruit, syrups, jams, jellies and salad dressings.
Since 2002 Alcan has been expanding and restructuring its packaging division, which supplies the food, pharmaceuticals, medical, beauty and tobacco markets. Growth has mainly been a result of keyacquisitions, which include Pechiney in 2003, VAW Packaging (FlexPac) in 2002 and Algroup in 2000.
Alcan's food plastic bottle business had sales of $130m last year. The unit operates three plants in the US, one in Canada and one in France, which together employ about 495 staff.
"This business is a leader in its field, pioneering multi-layer bottle technology for hot- and cold-fill products," said the president of Alcan's food packaging business in NorthAmerica, Ilene Gordon. "We are confident that we can find a strategic buyer that will be attracted to the growth and profit potential of the business, as well as by its commitment toproviding customers with top-tier quality and service."
Alcan is a leader in the aluminum and packaging markets. The company has 70,000 employees and operations in 55 countries. The company's packaging business had revenues of $6.1bn in 2004, making upabout 24 per cent of the group's total revenues. Plastic packaging accounts for 59 per cent of the division's business, while aluminum makes up 26 per cent.
Food and beverage packaging currently represents 62 per cent of sales in the packaging division. The group manufactures packaging for dairy products, pet food, fresh and frozen food, beverages,shrink bags for meats, dry food, retorted food and snacks.
Through its acquisitions Alcan has built a substantial position in European, Americas and Asian flexible packaging markets. In early 2005, the packaging division expanded manufacturing capacity inPoland, Russia, China and Malaysia.
"Our food packaging business is moving strategically to focus greater resources on the flexible packaging market, where we already enjoy substantial scale and leadership positions andwhere we believe the most attractive growth opportunities lie," said the president and chief executive officer of Alcan Packaging, Christel Bories.
In Europe Alcan's packaging business has plants in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.