Stanelco said the $25m (€20m) purchase from E Khashoggi Industries would give it access to Biotec's proprietary, starch-based pharmaceutical grade film. The film can be used to replace conventional polymers such as gelatine.
Stanelco currently uses Biotec's starch products for making food trays, air pillows and edible packaging, but has been locked in a legal dispute with BioProgress over the use of the films to make pharmaceutical capsules. Last November, BioProgress was awarded outright ownership of a patent relating to the use of radiofrequency 'welding' of the starch films in capsule production.
"Biotec is one of the world's leading exponents of starch technology and has a considerable intellectual property portfolio, including many patents, extending to uses in pharmaceutical and edible applications," Stanelco said in a press release, suggesting that its ambitions in the pharmaceutical arena remain.
Biotec's film has a cost base of between $5 to $8 per kilogramme, a cheaper alternative to gelatine and other materials.
Biotec's portfolio of products also includes thermoplastic starch, which can be substituted for petrochemical based plastic packaging. Stanelco said its RF sealing technology can be used to process starch polymers without the degradation caused by other methods such as thermal processing.
Stanelco's chief executive officer, Ian Balchin, said the purchase will help the company develop alternatives to petroleum-based packaging.
"I believe the acquisition positions the Stanelco group to take advantage of this rapidly expanding market place and specifically it will enable Stanelco to offer its product ranges that contain starch product at up to20 per cent less than is currently available," Balchin said.
The acquisition also creates a further barrier to entry for any company hoping to compete with Stanelco's RF sealing technology, he said. Biotec's managing director, Harald Schmidt, will have a three year service contract with Stanelco and will remain as managing director of Biotec.
Last year Stanelco acquired the assets of Adept Polymers, a water-soluble polymer manufacturer. It has also licensed rights to a non-gelatine encapsulation process developed by Adept Polymers and Stanelco Fibre Optics to Isracaps, an Israeli company.