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Packaging And Design

Packager DS Smith To Exit Plastics Business, Focus On Fibre Products

By Publications Checkout
Packager DS Smith To Exit Plastics Business, Focus On Fibre Products

DS Smith Plc has agreed to sell its plastics division to private equity firm Olympus Partners as the packaging company looks to focus on fibre and corrugated products, it said on Wednesday, sending its shares up as much as 6.3%.

The deal, for an enterprise value of $585 million (€517.5 million), is expected to marginally dilute its earnings per share and result in a substantial one-off gain, the company said.

The sale marks an end to the company's foray into plastics and would allow it to focus on recyclable packaging materials and corrugated products.

DS Smith supplies packaging products to companies including Inc, British fashion chain Next Plc and brands such as Aldi, Tesco Plc, Primark, Auchan, and IKEA.

Exclusively Focused

"It really means that the group now is exclusively focused on fibre-based packaging", Chief Executive Miles Roberts told Reuters.

The plastics business, which includes flexible and rigid plastics and foam products, reported a profit before tax of £28 million (€32.5 million) for the 12 month period ended 31 October.

Proceeds from the sale will mostly be used to bring the net debt to EBITDA ratio to at or less than two to one, in line with the company's medium-term target, Roberts said.

DS Smith expects net cash proceeds after taxation, transaction adjustments and expenses of about £400 million (€465.1 million).

"We believe this is slightly ahead of investors' £350-400 million expectations", Jefferies analysts said. The packaging sector has seen a series of recent takeovers as investors are drawn to reliable cash flow underpinned by strong demand from online shopping.

Environmental concerns have led to the plastics industry facing tighter regulation, meanwhile.

'Exploring Options'

The company said in December it was exploring options for its plastics division including a potential sale. The business, contributing 6% of overall revenue, has been hit by higher polymer prices and a lag in price recovery.

DS Smith's U.S. business continues to perform well with strong margins, it said, adding that overall margins are expected to improve in the second half of the year.

The company, which had been expected to release its quarterly trading update on Thursday, also said trading since 1 November had been in line with expectations and that the Christmas period was busy for e-commerce focused customers.

When asked if shareholders would be happy with the deal, Roberts said he expects them to be delighted.

"If I was a shareholder, I would be giving the chief executive a pat on the back," he added.

News by Reuters, edited by Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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