Three leading businesses are to be merged to form Europe's largest flexible packaging operation.

The new company, to be called Amcor Flexibles Europe, will be the market leader in Europe with annual sales of over €1 billion and 40 plants in 14 countries.

The deal involves the European flexible packaging businesses of Amcor and Danisco Flexible plus most of the operations of Åkerlund & Rausing. Amcor’s operation in The Netherlands and Danisco’s in The Netherlands, France and Portugal will be included in the merger. Amcor will have a shareholding of 67 in the new company, Danisco 25 and Ahlstrom, the Finnish parent company of Åkerlund & Rausing, 8. Put and call option arrangements are in place for Amcor to move to 100 over a two to four year time frame.

Completion of the deal is expected by June, subject to regulatory approvals.

Amcor Flexibles Europe is one of the leading high added value flexible packaging suppliers in Europe, with 10 plants, about 1,650 employees and annual sales of around €300M. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amcor, the global packaging company with headquarters in Australia.

Danisco Flexible, Europe’s second largest flexible packaging business, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Danish company Danisco A/S. It has 24 plants with total sales of €595M.

Swedish based Åkerlund & Rausing, another leading European flexible packaging company, has eight production facilities, about 2,000 employees and sales of €250M. Its plants in Italy and Russia, which are currently in losses, will be retained by Ahlstrom.

Graham James, the present head of Amcor Europe, will be the new company’s managing director. He said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Amcor as we are bringing together three of the leading flexible packaging businesses in Europe to create a new market leader. It establishes Amcor as the leading flexible packaging company in Europe and is an important step forward in our vision of being a leading global packaging company.

“This merger will enable us to deliver significant benefits to our customers through improved plant focus, increased production efficiencies and enhanced capabilities in research and development. All three companies have complementary product ranges and customers. The geographic mix means that all the key markets of Europe will be serviced by the new company.”

Russell Jones, md of the Amcor group, added: “The merger will also have substantial advantages for our €160M flexibles operation in Australia. Significant benefits can be expected as a result of these operations’ ability to leverage off the product innovation, plant benchmarking, purchasing, and research and development of this new company.”

Alf Duch-Pedersen, Danisco group ceo, commented: “This is in line with our business strategy. It´s an optimum solution, creating a powerful market leader in the flexible packaging market in Europe. By retaining ownership in it, we get the opportunity to capitalize on the consolidation of that market.”