BTR puts pounds 120m into China projects: Joint ventures follow Far East beer boom

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The Independent Online
THE INDUSTRIAL conglomerate BTR is investing Adollars 270m ( pounds 120.5m) through its 62 per cent owned Australian subsidiary BTR Nylex in two glass container joint ventures in Shanghai and Guangdong provinces to exploit the booming Chinese market for beer and other beverages.

The Guangdong plant is the largest glass plant in China. BTR plans to extend the existing four furnaces, to expand the number of glass-making machines from seven to 11, to increase speeds by 25 per cent and to double production in two years. A 1,500, or near-30 per cent, cut in the workforce has been agreed in advance with Guangdong provincial officials.

Alan Jackson, chief executive, said yesterday that Guangdong had agreed not to grant a licence for another glass container plant in the next 10 years without giving BTR first refusal.

The second plant is a greenfield site in Shanghai with a bias to exports because of the proximity of Hong Kong. Heineken is already a big customer and a range of containers is made for Pepsi and Coca Cola.

Demand for beer is growing rapidly in China, which is now the world's third largest consumer. Last week Foster's, the Australian lager company, signed a pounds 5m brewery deal in Guangdong.

'Western food companies are a little nervous about setting up in China unless they are sure that local packaging meets world-class standards,' Mr Jackson said. 'We can give them that comfort.'

He said there were no immediate plans for BTR to invest in Chinese joint ventures involving other BTR activities.

'We will be dipping our toe in the water in this instance and hastening slowly,' he added. 'But the range of applications for our technology is enormous.'

(Photograph omitted)