BTR close to pounds 1.5bn sale of packaging business

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BTR, the reformed conglomerate, is believed to be close to selling its packaging division to Owens Illinois, the US glass manufacturer, for up to pounds 1.5bn.

Owens has long been the front runner in the race to buy the business, which BTR put up for sale last year as part of its attempt to become a lean engineering group. However, the sale is thought to have been held up by competition concerns. A successful sale would be timely for Ian Strachan, BTR's embattled chief executive, who will present the company's annual results to the City on Thursday. The strong pound and turmoil in emerging markets is expected to trim profits to pounds 1.1bn. However, the proceeds of the disposal would give BTR enough financial firepower to spend up to pounds 1bn on its long-promised share buy-back programme.