BTR’s bid to slim down from a big conglomerate into a specialist engineering group took a leap forward on Monday with the sale of its packaging business to a US buyer for £2.2bn.
The sale may result in the creation of the UK’s biggest glass producer, controlling 60% market share unless European Union competition commissioners block it.
All BTR’s world-wide glass and packaging businesses, with a combined turnover of £1bn, have been sold to US-based Owens-Illinois. Some £2bn of the cash raised will be returned to shareholders.
Owens-Illinois owns Union Glass in the UK, and the acquisition will give it BTR’s glass manufacturer Rockware. Each has 30% of the UK market.
The sale puts BTR ahead of schedule on its divestment programme, with 50% of the £2.8bn turnover announced for divestment in September 1997 now having been sold, realising proceeds of £2.7m.
BTR’s polymer business was sold in November for £515m. The group believes it will complete most of its sales, including building products, by the end of this year. HSBC James Capel predicts this will leave it with an estimated turnover of £5.2bn, down from £9.6bn in 1995.