Alcan Packaging may break-up after year on the shelf

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcan packaging Rio tinto group

Speculation is rife that Australia’s Amcor is one of several companies to have tabled bids for Rio Tinto’s $4.4bn (€3.1bn) Alcan Packaging division that serves the pharmaceutical, food and tobacco industries.

Packaging operations are being sold off as a condition of the acquisition of Alcan in 2007. Rio is enacting a $15bn divestiture programme to repay debt, finance the deal and maintain its focus on the mining and metals market.

According to recent comments made by Amcor’s CEO Ken MacKenzie, the firm is now on the acquisition trail having shed several underperforming units over the past three years. He stressed that the company is looking to strengthen its standing in the flexibles, tobacco and PET packaging sectors.

This fits well with the interpretation of Macquarie analyst John Purtell, who told The Australian​ that Amcor is unlikely to buy the whole of Alcan Packaging, because “[they] don’t have the balance sheet capacity​.”

ABN AMRO analyst Richard Johnson agreed, commenting that although Rio would prefer to sell off Alcan Packaging as a single unit, “the fact that it [has] yet to secure a buyer after more than a year of ownership, suggested a break-up was more likely​.”

Rio media relations officer Chrystele Ivins told that, while the divestment is ongoing, the firm is unable to comment further for reasons of confidentiality. Amcor did not respond to questions.

US flexible packaging group Bemis is also believed to be interested in making Rio an offer, although the firm has not yet clarified its position one way or the other.

Other parties rumoured to be interested include, according to Reuters, private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Bain Capital. Of these, Apollo may be the most likely bidder, given that it already has a presence in the market through Berry Plastics, which it acquired in 2006, and Covalence Specialty Materials that it bought last year.

Rio maintains core focus

The Alcan packaging unit, which provides contract glass, plastic and metal packaging services and products to the drug, tobacco, food and cosmetics industries, has a 12-strong network of production facilities worldwide.

Speaking last year, Alcan CEO Dick Evans said that: “Alcan Packaging will have better opportunities for development and success following its divestiture and we will ensure a smooth transition for all involved​.”

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