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Apr 28, 2024

Although overall plastics M&A deal volume was down in the second half of 2022, the market continued to be active and attractive for investors.

Several high-priced deals were completed, including packaging maker Sealed Air Corp. buying Liqui-Box from private equity firm Olympus Partners for $1.15 billion.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air said the transaction is complementary to its Cryovac Fluids & Liquids business. Liqui-Box uses flexible plastic containers held within paper boxes to deliver liquids in a variety of markets, including food, beverage, consumer goods and industrial. It uses the name Liquibox in its marketing.

"Liqui-Box is a highly strategic acquisition to fuel growth and earnings power in our SEE Operating Engine," CEO Ted Doheny said in a statement. Liqui-Box, based in Richmond, Va., was founded in 1961 and has more than 1,300 employees at 18 global locations. Revenue for this year is expected to come in at $362 million.

The purchase price of $1.15 billion represents earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) multiple of 13.5, which drops to 10 times after cost savings, Sealed Air said. Olympus acquired Liqui-Box in 2015.

In a move to expand its North American footprint, Sweden-based Trelleborg AB purchased Minnesota Rubber and Plastics in a deal worth approximately $950 million. "This is a step change for Trelleborg Sealing Solutions," said Peter Nilsson, president and CEO of Trelleborg Group. "The business area will be as strong in North America as its already established position in Europe."

Nilsson said in a news conference that MRP strengthens Trelleborg Sealing Solutions' position in the rubber product space, especially in medical, food, beverage and water-related polymer and plastic components. MRP, the operating name for Quadion LLC, has liquid silicone rubber molding, injection molding of plastics, rubber molding, overmolding, assembly and other services.

Greif Inc. bought jerrycan maker Lee Container Corp. Inc. in a $300 million, all-cash deal. The purchase adds manufacturing sites in Homerville, Ga.; Centerville, Iowa; and Nacogdoches, Texas, as well as 500 employees. Lee Container makes jerrycans — typically rectangular containers with handles and spouts on top — for the agrochemical, specialty chemical, oil, lubricant and pet care markets.

"The Lee acquisition solidifies our commitment to growing our jerrycan and small plastic bottle footprint and adds a further growth engine," Greif CEO Ole Rosgaard said in a statement. Greif, based in Delaware, Ohio, is a publicly traded company known for a wide range of industrial packaging, including products made from plastics, paper and steel.

Lee Container has been a family-owned business since its founding in 1989 by Don Lee, who purchased the blow molding assets of Brockway-Standard Co. and started in Valdosta, Ga. The company moved to a larger, 100,000-square-foot location in Homerville four years later. The company later expanded in Homerville and created additional locations in Texas and Iowa.

Auto supplier Hella, now part of the Forvia Group brand, sold its 33.3 percent stake in HBPO GmbH for $295 million to Plastic Omnium SE, which now has full ownership of the former joint venture. Plastic Omnium CEO Laurent Favre said that with the deal, his firm "will be able to meet demand for more and more complex modular innovations accompanying the shift towards electric vehicles."

Hillenbrand Inc. moved deeper into the plastics machinery business with an $82.8 million deal for recycling equipment specialist Herbold Meckesheim GmbH. Herbold, based in Meckesheim, Germany, makes recycling systems that include washing, separating, drying, shredding and pulverizing equipment. Annual sales for Herbold are more than $52 million.

"Herbold is highly complementary to the equipment and solutions offered under our Coperion brand and will accelerate Hillenbrand's growth opportunities in the recycling end market," Hillenbrand said.

In a mold making deal, Omaha, Neb.-based Adler Industrial Solutions Inc. acquired R&D/Leverage Co. of Lee's Summit, Mo., to add scale, capabilities and European manufacturing facilities that serve a global customer base. This is the third acquisition by Adler in the past year. The company now is likely among the top 10 mold makers in North America, excluding the large automotive specialists.

Terms of the R&D transaction were not disclosed, but Adler CEO Philipp Gruner said the acquired company's sales typically exceed $40 million annually. Founded in 1975 by Ivan and Ardith Drienik, R&D manufactures molds for the food and beverage, personal care and health care markets. The company was a pioneer in developing complex tooling solutions for injection and blow molding.

R&D currently has more than 250 employees split between its 180,000-square-foot and 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facilities in Lee's Summit and Sutton-in-Ashfield, England, respectively. Adler plans to retain all employees.

"R&D is a global brand known for its exquisite craftsmanship. The skill and talent of the team was the most attractive aspect of the acquisition," Gruner said. In addition to the two manufacturing sites, Adler acquired the R&D Prototype and Hi-Tech Welding businesses in Lee's Summit as well as R&D's many patents.

In a tooling deal, York, Pa.-based Graham Engineering Co. acquired Kennedy Tool & Die Inc., a manufacturer of molds and tooling for blow molding, reaction-injection molding (RIM), thermoforming and structural-foam molding, based in Birdsboro, Pa.

Founded in 1960, Kennedy Tool molds are used around the world to make coolers, detergent bottles, plastic drums and industrial bulk containers as well as products with complex designs and varying wall thickness for RIM processing auto body parts, consumer electronics and sporting goods. The deal unites GEC skilled engineers, toolmakers and machinists for one-stop shop support of customers, according to GEC President David Schroeder.

Frequent buyers and firms making multiple deals continued to make headlines in the second half of 2022.

Pipe maker Atkore Inc. made four deals in the half. The firm expanded in high density polyethylene pressure pipe with the purchase of United Poly Systems. Atkore, based in Harvey, Ill., said that adding Springfield, Mo.-based United Poly and its two plants in Missouri and New Mexico will allow it to better tap into telecom, water infrastructure, renewables and energy markets.

Atkore then made two separate but related acquisitions in Oregon, with the purchases of Northwest Polymers in Molalla and Cascade Poly Pipe & Conduit in Woodburn. Northwest turns recyclable post-industrial waste plastic into pellets for decking and fencing manufacturers and more recently for conduit to house fiber for broadband. The company, which recycles PVC, HDPE and other plastics, is a supply partner to Cascade and other manufacturers in the region.

Launched two years ago, Cascade Poly extrudes smooth-wall HDPE conduit from recycled materials, primarily for the telecommunications, utility and datacom markets. Atkore also acquired the assets of Lovelady, Texas-based Elite Polymer Solutions LLC, a manufacturer of PE conduit, for $91.6 million. The acquired company has about 55 employees and will continue operating at its current location. Elite makes HDPE pipe, innerduct and conduit that provides pathways and protection for wires and cables for fiber optic, electrical and cable markets.

Atkore ranked 16th in the 2021 Plastics News ranking of pipe, profile and tubing makers, with $309 million in relevant sales, while United Poly had an estimated $80 million in sales and ranked 50th.

Investment firm Thunderbird LLC made its second plastics-related acquisition of the year, buying injection molder Bright Plastics Inc., a contract manufacturer based in Greensboro, N.C., with custom capabilities, especially for large-scale items. Bright Plastics will be added to Thunderbird's portfolio of manufacturing companies — Impact Molding — to expand injection molding support for the medical, defense, aerospace, transportation, recreation, waste management and telecom markets.

The Bright deal follows Thunderbird's acquisition of a contract manufacturer of components in May. The firm bought MPR Plastics Inc., an injection molder in Elgin, Ill., with 23 molding machines.

Medical device maker Canadian Hospital Specialties Ltd. bought two plastics processing firms to beef up domestic manufacturing and reduce its reliance on imports from outside North America. The Oakville, Ontario-based firm acquired two other Canadian firms, Stadco Polyproducts Inc., an injection molder in Mississauga, Ontario, and Respan Products Inc., a medical tubing and mask maker in Erin, Ontario.

"These acquisitions provide us with the ability to manufacture and supply a greater volume of Ontario-produced medical products for the Canadian and U.S. markets," said Mike Canzoneri, president and CEO.

SyBridge Technologies LP of Southfield, Mich., acquired Calframax Technologies Inc., a mold maker based in Oldcastle, Ontario, to expand in the consumer end market. Founded in 1995, Calframax makes molds for household items, industrial packaging and horticultural products.

SyBridge also acquired Galway, Ireland-based Galway Tool & Mould Ltd. to expand its presence in the life sciences end market and get a foothold in Europe from the heart of a medical technology hub. Founded in 1990 by Padraig McFadden, Galway has produced more than 1,000 molds, mostly for the medical device and pharmaceutical markets.

Also in the second half, SyBridge purchased most of the assets of Chicago-based Fast Radius Inc. for $15.9 million in a bankruptcy court process. Officials said SyBridge acquired those assets to bolster its prototyping, additive manufacturing and software capabilities. With the three second-half deals, SyBridge now has made 14 acquisitions in three years.

DazPak Flexible Packaging added two Ohio operations in separate moves that will strengthen the firm's Midwest presence. DazPak, owned by HIG Capital, acquired Atlapac Corp. of Columbus and the Inno-Lok Division of Polymer Packaging in Massillon.

"Polymer's assets will be merged with Atlapac post-close," DazPak said. The two flexible packaging companies represent the third and fourth acquisitions for DazPak under HIG ownership since late 2020.

Altium Packaging LLC, already a major player in plastic bottle blow molding, acquired Plastic Industries Inc., a New Hampshire-based company with a network of nine plants across the U.S. Plastics Industries makes both high density polyethylene and PET bottles for a variety of applications, including dairy, juice, water and drinkable yogurt. Along with that purchase, Altium acquired Andersen Plastics near Portland, Ore.

Altium, based in Atlanta, is the former Consolidated Container Corp. In 2021, publicly traded investment firm Loews Corp. sold 47 percent of the firm to GIC Private Ltd., a sovereign wealth fund that manages Singapore's foreign investments.

Pexco LLC made three second-half acquisitions and now has made 12 since 2018. The firm acquired injection molder Performance Plastics Ltd. of Cincinnati. Performance Plastics, marking its 40th year in business, makes parts for applications in aerospace, defense, medical and life science, and precision industrial. Officials said Performance Plastics is known for working with fluoropolymers, as well as with Torlon-brand polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and Ultem-brand polyetherimide resins.

Earlier, Johns Creek, Ga.-based Pexco acquired fluoropolymer products maker Enflo LLC of Bristol, Conn. Enflo makes a wide range of fluoropolymer shapes. including molded cylinders/tubes and sheets, tape and extruded rods and tubing.

Pexco also purchased Plastic Profiles LLC of Parsippany, N.J. The firm was founded in 1965 and specializes in fluoropolymer rods, tubes and compression molded sheets. The firm's products are used in semiconductors, aerospace, defense and industrial as well as in valves, gaskets and sealing.

In a news release, Pexco CEO Sam Patel said the acquisition of Plastic Profiles "further expands our capabilities and technical expertise in the world of high-performance polymers." With estimated sales of $290 million, Pexco is the 20th-largest pipe, profile and tubing producer in North America, according to PN data.

Foam Holdings Inc. made a pair of deals that expands its business in the U.S. and Canada. The firm added Amvic Inc. of Toronto, a maker of expanded polystyrene insulated concrete forms and construction and insulation products. The firm has plants in Toronto and in Scarborough, Calgary. The other purchase is Concrete Block Insulating Systems Inc. of West Brookfield, Mass., a maker of EPS preformed concrete block systems as well as insulated containers.

Foam Holdings, which makes and distributes EPS, expanded polypropylene and Arcel-brand foam products, is owned by private equity firm Wynnchurch Capital LP. Foam Holdings, based in Nashville, Tenn., was created through the merger of four acquisitions: Drew Foam, Huntington Solutions, Insulation Corp. of America and Fabricated Packaging Materials in 2020 and 2021.

PPC Flexible Packaging LLC, a Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based film converter and flexographic printer, purchased a similar company — Plastic Packaging Technologies LLC (PPT) of Kansas City, Kan. — for its ninth deal in five years. PPT employs 425 in manufacturing and distribution facilities in Columbus, Ohio, and Kansas City. PPT opened in the early 1970s and in 2002 was acquired by the Staker brothers: David, who became CEO and president, and Vice President Dan. They will continue with the company.

Kevin Keneally founded PPC in 2017. "We've known David and Dan [Staker] for the entire 20 years of their ownership of PPT and have watched them build one of the most respected, technology-driven firms in our industry," Keneally said in a news release.

Both companies produce pouches and do flexographic printing. Their markets overlap: Both make clean room packaging used in health care and medical applications, as well as a range of pouches and other packaging for consumer snacks, pet food and horticulture markets.

Tank Holding Co., North America's largest rotational molder, made its 20th deal in the last three years, this time acquiring rotational molder Solar Plastics LLC of Delano, Minn. Solar had been owned by Atek Cos. Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

In a news release, Tank officials in Lincoln, Neb., said the deal includes Solar's plants in Delano and in Davenport, Iowa, but not a newly opened plant in Monterrey, Mexico.

Solar makes high-volume rotationally molded products for a variety of original equipment manufacturers across multiple industries, including agriculture, construction and recreational. Tank CEO Greg Wade said Solar is "a premier rotational molding company with great people and a great reputation in the industry."

Brands in Tank's portfolio include Norwesco, Snyder Industries, Bonar Plastics, Bushman, Chem-tainer, Meese, Stratis Pallets and Dura-Cast. Tank is owned by private equity firm Olympus Partners and its management team.

Prior to the Solar deal, Tank operated 43 manufacturing plants and employed more than 1,800 throughout North America. Tank is, by far, the largest rotomolder in North America, with estimated annual sales of $420 million in 2020, according to PN data.

Harrington Industrial Plastics of Chino, Calif., acquired plastic plumbing products distributor Commercial Industrial Supply (CIS) in partnership with the latter's owner, Ron Heisler. Harrington said it was in part attracted to CIS, based in Rock Hill, S.C., because of the strong online presence CIS established that has allowed it to exceed the overall market's growth.

Harrington also purchased fabricator Crist Group in partnership with its owner. Crist Group, based in Woodland, Calif., fabricates fluid process parts and assemblies, focusing on the semiconductor market and others, including medical.

Crist will continue to be run by Paul Crist, who founded the company in 2000 after working as an executive for Harrington in the 1990s. Harrington said the acquisition will increase its offerings to the semiconductor industry, providing fabrication services that complement its existing products.

Harrington is part of Nautic Partners LLC of Providence, R.I., a middle-market private equity firm that focuses on industrials, health care and services.

Cascade Engineering Inc., an injection molder based in Grand Rapids, Mich., made news in the second half of the year by selling two parts of its business. Creative Liquid Coatings Inc. (CLC) acquired the assets of CK Technologies (CKT), a major but struggling unit of Cascade that injection molds parts for commercial trucks and buses.

CLC gained four plants: Montpelier, Ohio; Grand Prairie and Brownsville, Texas; and Mount Airy, N.C. Also included are 16 injection presses, automated paint finishing lines and advanced assembly capabilities. CLC President and CEO Stephen Geist said he intends to boost operations right away. He's already added three presses to the Ohio facility and has two more on order.

The deal will help CLC's total sales approach $400 million. With the acquisition, injection molding sales alone will be at least $200 million, Geist said. CLC has worked with CK for many years.

Tucson, Ariz.-based fuel systems supplier Walbro Corp. acquired the assets of Cascade's powersports business, including a 50,000-square-foot facility in Grand Rapids.

"We fast-tracked this acquisition as it aligns well with our long-term vision of growing our product offerings in the markets we serve," said Mike Coyle, president of fuel systems at Walbro. "The significant growth planned for this site in the coming years made it extremely attractive."

Walbro will continue to operate the business out of the same facility with the former Cascade team.

On a heartwarming note, Indiana plastics recycler Green Tree Plastics LLC found a buyer and will remain open. Evansville-based Green Tree oversees a unique effort to turn used caps into new benches. News of the sale came just weeks after Green Tree indicated it would close as owners Brent and Bonnie Grafton had decided to retire.

Reaction to that news was swift, Green Tree Vice President Cara Bornefeld said. The firm was swamped with interest from other manufacturers of plastic lumber once word of the planned closure was revealed, she said.

"It's been exciting the last couple of weeks. As soon as we posted, everybody just came out of the woodwork [showing interest]," Bornefeld said.

Green Tree partners with groups from around the country to collect plastic caps used for feedstock to make new products through a program called the ABC Promise Partnership. ABC stands for A Bench for Caps. The company also makes plastic lumber and products independent of the ABC bench program.

"Green Tree Plastics has received a formal offer for purchase and will be under the guidance of new ownership!! Brent and Bonnie will be able to retire and Green Tree will still be able to offer our ABC Promise Partnership to all of our wonderful groups to continue this closed-loop recycling program. Also, our team can continue to call Green Tree their home, which makes us extremely happy!" the company said in a Facebook post.

"Moving forward, the new owners would like to restart production as quickly as possible," Green Tree said.

Structural foam molder DeKalb Molded Plastics Co. of Butler, Ind., officially has "new" owners, though both have been with the company for years. Rick Walters and Douglas Bonecutter recently bought Jeffrey Rodgers' interest in the company. Walters and Bonecutter said they're sticking with Rodgers' "winning strategy" of prioritizing employees and engaging with the community and industry.

Walters has been with the company since it opened in 1978, and Rodgers joined as president in 1990. The pair purchased the company in 1997 from JSJ Corp. of Grand Haven, Mich., an investment firm with a portfolio of diversified manufacturing companies. When Rodgers stepped back from his involvement in the company in 2007, Walters became president, and then CEO as well, though Rodgers continued to act as chairman.

The ownership change became effective Aug. 29. Bonecutter, who joined the company in 2017, is now vice president. Both men said they are excited about the company's future, which eventually will include some kind of expansion. "We'd really like to find more space in our facility, whether through an expansion or additional square footage somehow," Walters said.

The company employs 75 making pallets, traffic barrels, guardrail reinforcement blocks, medical device housings and cabinets and other components. Some of its products are made of 100 percent recycled resin. DeKalb's 80,000-square-foot plant also houses a variety of auxiliary molding equipment and machinery for assembly, painting and decorating. The firm was a finalist for the PN 2012 Processor of the Year award and was honored with the PN Excellence Award for customer relations for 2010.

London-based Petainer Ltd., known for making plastic beer kegs, was acquired by private equity firm Ara Partners. Ara, which concentrates on industrial decarbonization investments, said the deal includes Petainer management as well as affiliates of investment firm Next Wave Partners LLP.

Bill Kozyra, a longtime auto executive and former CEO of blow molding auto fuel tank maker TI Fluid Systems, acquired Romeo, Mich.-based custom molder Alco Plastics Inc. Alco makes injection molded plastic components and assemblies of automotive interior and structural parts, including two-shot and overmolding. It also has in-house mold making and design. Kozyra purchased the business from Dan Conway, the second-generation family owner of Alco, which was founded by his father, Adrian Lee Conway, in 1976.

A sale of Molded Devices Inc. "just made too much sense," founder Brian Anderson said. Private equity firm TruArc Partners LP bought the Tempe, Ariz.-based plastics and rubber company from PNC Mezzanine Capital as Anderson said prices being offered for companies essentially were too good to pass up. Molded Devices makes most of its money in plastics but has a robust business in the smaller rubber dip molding market that accounts for about 10 percent of the firm's revenue.

On the plastics side, the company provides injection molding, tube extrusion and blow molding as well as dip molding. Molded Devices has grown to have sales of more than $100 million annually, Anderson said, and he expects that growth to continue under new ownership. "The markets, in my opinion, got crazy in terms of the multiples being paid," he added.

Charter Next Generation Inc. acquired Polymer Film & Bag Inc., the extrusion portion of Polymer Packaging of Massillon, Ohio.

"PF&B is a perfect fit for CNG and will help us continue to outpace industry growth in the future," CEO Kathy Bolhous of Charter Next Generation said in a statement. Charter Next Generation said Polymer Film & Bag brings some "unique capabilities" that will allow the company to "expand into new, attractive vertical markets."

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Caplugs Inc. acquired Tampere, Finland-based Safeplast Oy to expand its capabilities in hose protection. It has also moved a manufacturing operation — Safeplast USA LLC — that had opened in 2018 in Liberty, S.C., to its headquarters site in New York.

Founded in 1948, Caplugs manufactures caps, plugs, tubing, containers, edge liners, fasteners and netting for the medical, automotive, electronics, aviation and hydraulics markets from PE, PVC silicone and rubber. The Safeplast deal gives Caplugs a broader selection of standard products, a full range of specialty wrap products and complementary products from a single source, according to Caplugs CEO David Williams.

Seattle-based on-demand manufacturer Inc. acquired Clinton, Mich.-based Xcentric Mold and Engineering Inc. with plans to strengthen its capabilities as part of a growth strategy. Founded in 1996, Xcentric offers rapid prototyping, injection molding, computer numerically controlled machining and other related services with 100 employees at two facilities covering 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

The acquisition complements Quickparts' current manufacturing offerings and supports its continued growth by improving its U.S.-based, in-house production for customers. Quickparts, owned by Trilantic Capital Management LP, serves the aerospace and defense, architecture, automotive, autonomous vehicles, consumer products, medical and other industries, overlapping with Xcentric in many markets.

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