Amcor’s general counsel, Julie McPherson, confirmed the talks in a letter published on the firm's website while addressing a price query from the Australian Securities Exchange after its share price fell 14.5 per cent to A$4.57 (€2.37) on February 2.
McPherson said that: “Amcor is currently in discussions regarding the potential acquisition of part but not all of the Alcan Packaging business,” and attributed the price drop to speculation about how the firm would pay for the deal.
She cautioned that the talks are both confidential and incomplete and that “there can be no assurance that any binding proposal or transaction will result from those discussions.” McPherson did not say which part of the Alcan group that Amcor is interested in, but most observers agree that the flexible packaging division would be the best fit.
Speculation that Amcor was interested in Alcan first began circulating in September last year when the firm was named along with US packaging group Bemis and several private equity funds in a list of potential suitors.
McPherson also said that while it has no specific plans at the moment, Amcor would consider all potential funding options available to it. The firm did not respond to in-PharmaTechnologist’s request for additional information.
Stefano Bertolli, a spokesman for Rio Tinto, told Reuters that the firm is in talks with Amcor as well as a number of other potential suitors for Alcan.
Rio has been trying to divest the Alcan packaging unit as part of a $15bn (€11.4bn) debt refinancing programme under the terms of its $38bn acquisition of the wider Alcan aluminium group in 2007. However after a year on the market, observers began speculating that Rio would have to break up Alcan to find a buyer.
The subsequent collapse of the private equity market and general economic downturn will have thinned the field considerably and may mean that Amcor is able to negotiate a bargain price if it does pursue the transaction.