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Plastics packaging: Sonoco acquires APT, leading CPET tray thermoformer

Associated Packaging Technologies Inc., which claims to be the world's leading processor of crystallized polyethylene terephthalate (CPET) trays, has been scooped up by Sonoco, one of the world's largest packaging processors. Sonoco paid about $120 million all-cash for APT, a price that includes the cost of paying off various obligations of APT.

Why APT? In a statement, Harris DeLoach Jr., president and CEO at Sonoco, explained, "With this acquisition, Sonoco has significantly expanded its existing thermoforming plastic container capabilities into the growing global frozen, chilled and ready-to-eat food markets." said DeLoach. "While APT is today the leading global supplier of CPET containers, we believe its proprietary material formulations and rotary thermoforming technology provide a strong platform for significant product development and growth. In addition, this acquisition will help accelerate Sonoco's current development of multilayer barrier polypropylene food containers."

Sonoco expects the acquisition to be modestly accretive this year and is expected to generate annualized sales of approximately $150 million. APT was previously majority owned by investment funds controlled by Castle Harlan Inc.

APT runs thermoforming facilities in Ontario, Canada; at two sites (Chillicothe, MO, and Waynesville, NC) in the U.S.; and at Carrickmacross, Ireland, and employs more than 400 workers. MPW visited the site in Ireland; here's our report on that facility. CPET trays are dual-ovenable (conventional and microwave) and see use primarily in packaging of ready-to-eat frozen meals. APT's capacity is enough to process some 3 billion CPET containers annually; it standardizes on extrusion machinery from Davis-Standard and thermoformers from Lyle.

Last year APT announced it was adding polypropylene and multi-layer film extrusion and thermoforming capacity to its Cambridge, ON facility, raising capacity there by about 8 million lb/year (original article here). It also was the first processor in the U.S. to thermoform frozen meal trays incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic.

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