Packaging deals marked the hottest first-half mergers and acquisitions action, led by the already giant Berry Global Group Inc. buying RPC Group plc to become a true global packaging manufacturer.

Consolidated Container Co. also made three first-half deals. And Sealed Air Corp. bought Automated Packaging Systems Inc.

In a gigantic packaging deal with global impact, Berry in March announced it was buying RPC for $4.37 billion in cash. The blockbuster acquisition doubled the size of Berry, bringing RPC's 153 factories and about 25,000 employees. RPC's concentration in Europe and Berry's concentration in North America creates a global packaging powerhouse with combined sales of about $13 billion.

The deal — by far Berry's largest ever — came with some added drama: RPC's decision to accept Berry's offer trumped an earlier bid for RPC by private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC.

Blow molder Consolidated Container, through its Altium Packaging Canada business, acquired Quebec-based Plastique Micron Inc. and its affiliates, IMBC Blowmolding (2014) Inc. and Les Produits de Plastique Action. Consolidated Container President and CEO Sean Fallmann called Plastique Micron "an important addition to our growth plans in the health and wellness segments."

Consolidated also acquired a Utah bottle maker, Sonic Plastics Enterprises LLC, in a move that lets Atlanta-based CCC to continue to grow in multiple end markets and strengthen its presence in the mountain west region, said Mark Shafer, senior vice president and general manager for the company's Food, Nutrition and Beverage Group.

In another deal by Consolidated Container, the company acquired Tri State Distribution Inc., a Tennessee-based company that describes itself as one of the largest makers of prescription packaging in the country.

Sealed Air Corp. announced May 1 that it was acquiring Automated Packaging Systems Inc. of Streetsboro, Ohio, for $510 million. Automated Packaging manufactures automated bagging systems and makes pre-opened bags on a roll — the razor-blade principle where users of the equipment keep buying bags from APS.

APS has annual sales of $290 million and employs more than 1,200 at seven sites in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Charter NEX Films Inc. and Next Generation Films Inc. merged — and Next Generation Films owner Dave Frecka took a major ownership stake in the combined firm.

Private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners LP and Oak Hill Capital signed an agreement with Frecka for the deal announced April 26. Kathy Bolhous was to remain CEO of Charter NEX in Milton, Wis. Frecka remained CEO of Next Generation, based in Lexington, Ohio.

The combined company will have 11 manufacturing sites in Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Massachusetts with more than 100 extrusion lines

Paragon Films Inc., a maker of stretch films used to secure pallet loads during shipping, changed hands between two private equity firms. New York-based Wellspring Capital Management LLC bought Paragon, of Broken Arrow, Okla., from Wind Point Partners of Chicago.

Tekni-Plex Inc. bought three manufacturing plants from Amcor Ltd.'s Flexible Packaging business to strengthen its portfolio of sterilizable medical packaging, adding facilities in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., and Ashland, Miss.

Amcor sold the plants to Tekni-Plex, based in Wayne, Pa., to resolve U.S. antitrust concerns about Amcor's $6.8 billion all-stock purchase of Bemis Co. Inc. To meet antitrust issues in Europe, Amcor is selling three former Bemis plants in the United Kingdom and Ireland to U.S. private equity firm Kohlberg & Co.

In other packaging deals, Graham Partners continued to build its thermoforming business by purchasing James L. Villa Inc., a Florida-based company with thermoforming and injection molding that became part of Graham's EasyPak LLC operations. Previously, Graham acquired Tray-Pak Corp. and Nuconic Packaging LLC.

New York private equity fund Blackstone Group was buying 51 percent of Mumbai, India-based specialty packaging company Essel Propack Ltd., the world's largest maker of laminated tubes.

And a major packaging machinery deal came in mid-May, when Milacron Holdings Corp. announced it was selling its Uniloy blow molding equipment business to private equity firms, Osgood Capital Group LLC and Cyprium Investment Partners LLC. The purchase price: $51.9 million.

Milacron bought Uniloy in 1998 from Johnson Controls Inc. The company has retained the structural foam molding machinery business it bought from JCI at that same time.

Other deals included some well-known names like acquisition-loving Westfall Technik Inc. and some that are not so well known like a playground equipment company founded by Amish craftsman.

Las Vegas-based Westfall Technik made three first-half deals: a mold maker and two injection molders.

First Westfall bought Mold Craft Inc. in Willernie, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul, which makes micromolds. The global holding company said Mold Craft "rounds out the company's industry-leading micro molding capabilities for medical device production."

"Bringing full-scale, high-volume micromolding in-house was a strategic priority for us because it adds substantial value for our customers," Westfall CEO Brian Jones said.

Founded last than two years ago, Westfall Technik has been one of the most acquisition-molded companies, building a group of plastics-industry holdings in the tooling, medical, packaging and consumer products sectors.

Westfall also bought a micromolding company — Micro Tech Southwest Inc. in Tempe Ariz., where it is investing in an ISO 8 clear room. Micro Tech focuses on medical and consumer products.

In May, Westfall bought medical molder Delta Pacific Products and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Prism Plastics Products Inc. and NxTBio Technologies. Delta and NxtBio run three plants in California and one in Mexico. Prism has a plant in New Richmond, Wis.

• Australia-based Brambles Ltd. divested its IFCO brand of reusable plastic containers for $2.51 billion to focus on its CHEP reusable pallet business. The buyers were German private equity firm Triton and Luxinva, an investment firm owned by the Abu Dhabi government.

IFCO is a major global supplier of reusable packaging solutions for fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, shipped from suppliers to grocery stores.

• Stamford, Conn.-based private equity firm Olympus Partners made two deals in the first half of 2019 — including buying the largest rotational molder in North America, Tank Holding Corp., for the second time in decade, after selling it to another private equity firm, Leonard Green & Partners LP, in 2012.

Tank Holding generates annual sales of $250 million, from 22 factories, according to Plastics News' most recent ranking of rotational molders.

Just a few weeks before the Tank Holding deal, Olympus announced it was buying the plastics packaging division from London-based DS Smith plc. That included flexible plastics, rigid plastics and foam products. DS Smith retained its paper packaging operations.

• French automotive supplier Novares Group SA made two deals in the first half of 2019 — in the United States and Europe.

In February, Novares bought Miniature Precision Components Inc., an injection and blow molder of under-the-hood parts and assemblies for vehicle powertrains. MPC, sold by the Brost family, will operate as a business unit under the Novares name.

Novares CEO Pierre Boulet said the deal doubles the size of the French company's powertrain business and balances sales in that market evenly between Europe and the United States.

Then just two months later, Novares acquired a minority stake in Belgian flexible electronics firm Quad Industries, a maker of printed electronics that has moved into printed, flexible sensors to create intelligent systems for automotive interiors. The two companies had worked together for about a year before Novares bought its stake.

• Newell Brands Inc. continued to divest business units, as Newell officials streamline operations and cut costs. This time it sold the Process Solutions business to New York-based private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners, expected to bring in $500 million after taxes.

Process Solutions produces plastic, nylon, monofilament and zinc products for the health care, consumer and industrial markets as well as governmental agencies, including copper-plated zinc penny blanks for the U.S. Mint. Plastics-related businesses incorporated in the deal included the plastics solutions unit, Lifoam-brand coolers and ice packs and consumer tabletop goods.

• Springboard Manufacturing, doing business legally as Kruger Plastic Products LLC, purchased majority ownership of Northern California Injection Molding LLC and El Dorado Molds LLC, both in Rancho Cordova, Calif., from founder and machinist Bob Brewer.

Springboard also built a new plant in Greensboro, N.C. HC Private Investments, a Chicago investment firm, owns Springboard Manufacturing, which targets medical device molding.

• The family-owned Jabat Inc. was acquired by Mac Plastics Manufacturing Inc., a business formed by two Jabat employees and partners to keep the custom extruding and injection molding operation, and its 37 jobs, in Olney, Ill. The partners dug deep to buy Jabat, since another prospective buyer had talked about relocating production to Ohio.

• Custom Profile of Walker, Mich., in partnership with Mosaic Capital Partners LLC, has purchased all of the company's equity from private equity owners Blackford Capital LLC to begin operating as a 100 percent employee-owned company through an employee stock ownership plan.

In 2012, founder Sam Nichols had sold Custom Profile to Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Blackford Capital for an undisclosed amount. The company extrudes plastic components for the office furniture, appliance, medical, point-of-purchase and recreational vehicle industries.

1810 Preform Suppliers for Sale

• At least one deal involved playtime — playground equipment, that is. PennSpring Capital LLC, a private equity firm in Lancaster, Pa., acquired playground supplier Swing Kingdom and Atlas Molding LLC, a rotational molder in nearby Leola, Pa., that rotomolds slides and other components for Swing Kingdom and other regional playground makers. The seller, Amish businessman Amos Glick, will remain president and owns a stake in both companies.

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