RPC Group PLC - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on RPC Group PLC

Lakeside House
Higham Ferrers
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives

RPC Group is Europe's leading manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging and is unique in that it is able to offer products made by all three conversion processes, blow moulding, injection moulding and thermoforming. It has 47 operations in 12 different countries and employs over 6,500 people. RPC services a comprehensive range of customers--from the largest European manufacturers of consumer products to the smallest national businesses. It has particularly strong positions in the beauty and personal care sector, the vending and drinking cup market, the margarine industry, and in multi-layer sheet and packs for oxygen sensitive food products. Our objectives are to further strengthen RPC's position in these and other sectors of the European market and to optimise our production, thereby generating a satisfactory return for our shareholders and the best possible security for our employees, suppliers and customers.

History of RPC Group PLC

RPC Group PLC claims the position as the leading manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging products in Europe, with sales of £513 million ($892 million). Yet the group's operations represent a share of roughly 3 percent of the total market, suggesting vast potential for future expansion. RPC is the only major European plastics packaging group with production capacity in all three primary plastics conversion processes: blow molding, injection molding, and thermofolding. The company's operations are grouped under several "clusters," including UK Injection-moulding, Tedeco Gizeh Cups, Bebo, Bramlage, and Cobelplast. Acquisitions have formed a primary part of the company's growth, which was formed as an independent operation following a management buyout in 1991. As such, the group has acquired operations in 12 countries in Europe, and boasts nearly 50 production facilities. In 2006, the company also opened its first manufacturing plant in the United States.

The company's production spans the entire range of packaging markets, including food packaging; buckets, pails, pots, tubs, and lids; vending and drinking cups, bottles, jars, and caps; margarine packaging; coffee packaging systems; and personal care and beauty products. RPC's growth has been driven since the late 1980s by Ron Marsh. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Rigid Plastic Packaging Specialist in 1991

The origins of RPC Group traced back to Denmark's Superfos, which established a plastic packaging production unit in Oakham, England, in 1973. Founded in 1892, Superfos had grown into a highly diversified conglomerate by then, and had entered the plastic packaging market only in 1964. Through the 1970s, Superfos built the Oakham site into one of the United Kingdom's major plastic packaging producers. The U.K. subsidiary initially specialized in the production of plastic buckets, and quickly dominated that product sector. In the 1970s, the Oakham plant also developed a new plastic paint can, called the Paintainer, which became a long-lasting success, not only for Superfos, but for the later RPC Group as well.

In 1983, Superfos sold the Oakham plant to Reed International, which at the time was still involved in the paper and packaging markets. Reed invested strongly in the Oakham plant, launching mass production of the Paintainer. Under Reed, the Oakham unit expanded its production facilities as well, building a plant in Corby in 1986, then acquiring two more plants, in Raunds and Rushden, from Smith's Containers. That purchase gave the company a number of new packaging markets, such as for chemicals, fruit juices, and food oils. Two years later, the company built a new factory in Blackburn as an extension of the Oakham plant's production.

By then, Reed had undergone a major diversification effort, which lasted through the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Publishing now formed a major part of Reed's operations, and the purchase of Octopus Publishing in 1987 had encouraged Reed to refocus itself as a publishing group. As such, Reed began selling off its noncore operations, including its do-it-yourself (DIY) and paints businesses in 1987.

Reed's paper and packaging division was the next to go. In 1988, that division was spun off as a new company, Reedpack, in a management buyout. The following year, Reedpack was restructured into more of a holding company format serving as central hub for the company's business units. These included Reedpack's rigid plastic production operation, based at the Oakham, Blackburn, Raunds, Rushden, and Corby plants. Ron Marsh, who had already led the rigid plastics business under Reed, was appointed CEO of that business unit, Reedpack Containers, in 1989. The following year, Reedpack Containers was expanded with the acquisition of blow molding production machinery from rival Rockware Plastics. The acquisition of this unit not only strengthened Reedpack's production capacity in the high-barrier bottles, it also narrowed the number of competitors with rival blow molding technology to just one.

Reedpack's independence did not last long. In 1990, the company agreed to be acquired by Swedish paper and packaging group Svenska Cellulosa. Following that purchase, Svenska Cellulosa sold off the Reedpack Containers unit, including its five U.K. production sites, in a new management buyout led by Ron Marsh. The newly independent company, formed in 1991, took on the name of RPC Containers Ltd.

Acquiring Scale for the Approach of the 21st Century

RPC immediately embarked on an expansion course driven by acquisition. The first of these came with the purchase of the Swindon-based injection molding capacity of CarnaudMetalbox in 1991. That purchase boosted RPC's paintainer production capacity, while also providing it with facilities for producing custom-molded food packaging and containers.

The company's next purchase came in 1993, when it bought Bunzl PLC's blow molding production unit. This purchase boosted RPC's production of household chemicals and toiletries packaging systems. Setting its sights on further growth, RPC moved to raise capital, listing its shares on the London Stock Exchange in that year. At the same time, the company adopted a new name, RPC Group PLC.

RPC's focus remained on the U.K. plastics packaging market into the middle of the decade. In 1994, the company added to its leading position there with the acquisition of McKechnie PLC's plastic packaging operations. That purchase, which cost RPC £6 million, brought it three new factories in Market, Rasen, and Halstead.

Into the late 1990s, RPC recognized the potential for developing itself into an internationally operating packaging provider. In this way, the company would be able to serve its increasingly multinationally operating customer base. RPC took a major step into transforming itself into the European rigid plastics packaging leader in 1997, when it paid £63 million to acquire Continental Plastics Europe. A unit of can maker Schmalbach Lubeca (later acquired by Ball Industries), Continental Plastics brought 13 factories located throughout the European continent, including Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and South Wales, as well as the Bebo brand. The purchase also enabled RPC to expand its production capacity into the third major plastics packaging segment, thermoforming. As such, RPC became the sole European producer using all three plastics conversion processes. With sales nearing £250 million following the Continental acquisitions, RPC became the leading rigid plastics packaging group in Europe.

RPC maintained its growth momentum through the end of the decade. In 1998, the company made three new acquisitions, starting with Stag Plastics, based in Bristol, a part of the Bunzl Group. The company acquired two thermoforming sites in The Netherlands from AEP Industries Inc. that year as well, paying $4 million. The company then combined those operations, which specialized in the production of trays and food containers, into its Bebo business in Germany and Poland. Next, RPC paid £16.5 million to acquire the disposable plastic products operations from Gizeh, adding factories in France and Poland, and a distribution business in Germany.

At the close of the decade, RPC continued to add to its operations, buying up an Italian sheet plastic business from Montonate in 1999 for £7.9 million. A larger acquisition came in April of that year, with the purchase of Able Industries PET stretch-blow molding machinery and other assets for £4 million. At the end of that year, the company rescued the three British factories of bankrupt Cressdale Ltd.

European Leader in the New Century

Already the largest European rigid plastics packaging producer in terms of sales, RPC nonetheless controlled less than 3 percent of the highly fragmented European market. RPC set out to lead the consolidation of the industry, launching a new series of acquisitions into the new decade. The first of these came with the £6 million purchase of TWP Packaging Twente, a manufacturer of tubs and trays based in The Netherlands with operations in Poland as well. The company next bought Germany's Wiko, including its three German sites. The Wiko acquisition also gave the company a sales office in the United States.

RPC returned to Poland in 2001, buying a thermoforming facility in Kruszwica from Autobar. Whereas the group experienced strong growth through most of its operations, its factory in Oevel, Belgium, had proven to be a money-loser, and in June 2001 the company closed that site.

That closure remained an anomaly for the company, however, as its sales built rapidly into the middle of the decade; by 2006, the company had doubled its turnover. Acquisitions remained a key element in this growth, and included the 2004 purchases of four factories from Rexam in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, and another seven factories from Nampak in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Yet RPC also had invested in its organic growth, building new factories in the United Kingdom in 2002 and in Romania in 2003.

With sales of more than £500 million ($820 million), RPC turned its attention to a wider international expansion. The company had teamed up Braun and Kraft to develop the Tassimo capsule-based coffee system, launched in France in 2004. A rival to the Nespresso system, Tassimo featured capsules developed by RPC. In support of the launch of Tassimo in the United States, RPC built its first factory in that country, in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, which also took over the operations of the company's existing U.S. sales unit. RPC expected to play a role not only in the consolidation of the European plastics packaging sector, but in the increasingly global market as well.

Principal Subsidiaries

RPC Bebo C¢ R S.R.O. (Czech Republic); RPC Bebo Nederland B.V. (Netherlands); RPC Bebo Plastik GmbH (Germany); RPC Bebo Polska Sp. z.o.o.; RPC Bramlage-Wiko USA Inc.; RPC Cobelplast Montonate S.R.L. (Italy); RPC Cobelplast N.V. (Belgium); RPC Containers Limited; RPC Envases S.A. (Spain); RPC Formatec GmbH (Germany); RPC Packaging Holdings B.V. (Netherlands); RPC Packaging Holdings Limited; RPC Packaging Holdings US Inc.; RPC Tedeco-Gizeh (UK) Limited; RPC Tedeco-Gizeh GmbH (Germany); RPC Tedeco-Gizeh Kft (Hungary); RPC Tedeco-Gizeh Polska Sp. z.o.o.; RPC Tedeco-Gizeh Romania S.R.L.; RPC Tedeco-Gizeh S.A.S. (France); RPC Tedeco-Gizeh Troyes SASU (France); TW Packaging Polska Sp. z.o.o.

Principal Competitors

Rexam Beverage Packaging AB; The Savola Group; Mitsubishi Plastics Inc.; Groupe Sidel; Graham Packaging Holdings Co.; Daetwyler Holding Inc.; Ball Packaging Europe; Crown European Holdings Inc.; Itera Group; Hilfort Plastics Proprietary Ltd.; Superfos A/S.


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