Announcing its full-year 2011 results last Thursday, the company reported net profits of $444m (€338m) on sales of $8.6bn; comparable 2010 figures were $433m and $7.6bn.
John Hayes, president and CEO, said: “Our improved 2011 performance was the result of maximising value in our existing businesses, expanding into new products and capabilities, broadening our geographic reach, aligning ourselves with the right customers and markets and leveraging our technological expertise…”
Within Ball’s European beverage packaging division, sales of $2bn ($1.7bn: 2010) led to operating earnings of $243m ($213m: 2010), mainly due to Ball’s Aerocan acquisition (aluminium bottles and aerosol cans).
But although sales rose on a quarterly basis year-on-year, profits fell from $42.3m in Q4 2010 to $41m due to “price cost compression” for cans.
Discussing earnings in this segment, Ball revealed the plans to relocate its European headquarters, in the second half of 2012, and added: “During the fourth quarter, continued soft beverage can volumes were partially offset by strong demand for extruded aluminium packaging.
The profit slump continued across Ball’s metal food and household products packaging in the Americas, with fourth-quarter results lower due to weaker volume sales after a poor vegetable pack last Autumn.
Plant shutdowns late in the year to reduce inventories and the absence of customer prebuys compared to Q4 2010 were also noted.
“On a full-year basis, the segment results improved due primarily to increased operating efficiencies and continued emphasis on lean manufacturing practices,” the firm noted.
However, metal beverage packaging in the Americas and Asia posted impressive sales and earnings growth, with segment earnings of $481.7m on sales of $4.4bn ($418m on $3.8bn, 2010), while Hayes hailed a 10-year contract extension as MillerCoors’ exclusive can supplier last December
Reclosable aluminium bottle
Discussing its success in this segment, Ball said it had successfully started up a new Alumi-Tek line in Q4 at its plant in Golden, Colorado “to meet growing demand for the popular reclosable aluminum bottle, and reduced 12oz beverage can capacity in its Columbus, Ohio, plant to manage inventories and better align Ball’s manufacturing output with market demand”.
In addition, Ball said it had acquired its partners’ 60% interest in a former joint venture metal beverage can plant in Qingdao, China, and will build a new, expanded plant there to fuel fast-growing market demand.
Joint venture can plants in Brazil (Alagoinhas) and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) were on schedule to sell cans by the end of the first quarter (Q1) to meet continued strong customer demand, Ball added.
Raymond Seabrook, executive vice president, said: “In 2012 we anticipate that the beverage can market will continue to grow in Brazil and Asia, and specialty can sales will progress in North America.”