U.S. opposes proposed Ardagh purchase of Saint-Gobain unit

WASHINGTON Mon Jul 1, 2013 6:41pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it had filed a complaint aimed at stopping Ireland's Ardagh Group S.A.'s proposed $1.7 billion acquisition of a unit of France's Saint-Gobain that makes glass containers for the U.S. market.

Industry leader Owens-Illinois Inc, Saint-Gobain Containers Inc and Ardagh dominate the $5 billion U.S. market for glass containers and Ardagh's purchase of the unit would give the Irish company 75 percent of the U.S. market for beer and liquor bottles, the FTC said.

"The result will be higher prices, lower availability and less innovation," the FTC said in its complaint.

Ardagh, an Irish company that specializes in cans and bottles for food and drink, entered the U.S. glass container market in 2012 when it bought third-ranking Anchor Glass Container Corp and the much smaller Leone Industries. Ardagh said in mid-January that it would pay $1.7 billion for Saint-Gobain's North American glass container operation.

Ardagh said it was disappointed in the FTC decision.

"Ardagh intends to vigorously defend the transaction in litigation, whilst at the same time working with the FTC to seek to resolve its concerns," the company said in a statement.

A Saint-Gobain spokesman said the company would defend the deal while also working with the FTC to try a reach a solution. The company hoped to close the deal as soon as possible.

Saint-Gobain plans to exit the low-margin business and focus on higher-margin building materials operations.

The Saint-Gobain unit, called Verallia North America, makes jars and bottles for everything from wine to hard liquor to beer to oils and vinegars and spices, according to its website.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Gilles Guillaume and Conor Humphries; Editing by Andre Grenon, Bernard Orr and Tim Dobbyn)

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