Ireland's Ardagh offers to sell U.S. plants due to anti-trust issues

DUBLIN Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:49pm EDT

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's Ardagh Glass offered on Friday to sell four U.S. plants to address anti-trust authorities' objections to its planned $1.7 billion acquisition of an American unit from France's Saint-Gobain.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in July announced it had filed a complaint aimed at stopping Ardagh's acquisition of the Verallia North America (VNA) unit, which makes jam jars and drinks bottles for the U.S. market.

Ardagh said that if the VNA deal went ahead, it would sell the four glass container manufacturing plants to a single buyer to create a "strong, viable competitor for the manufacture and sale of glass containers in the United States."

A source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters the four businesses would have combined sales of around $400 million, with around 70 percent of that in beer.

The four plants are Ardagh facilities in Florida and Georgia and VNA facilities in Illinois and North Carolina.

The manufacturing capacity of the new standalone business would be equivalent to more than Ardagh's existing beer business and more than VNA's existing spirits business, the Ardagh statement said.

"It is very clear that the amended transaction would more than overcome any possible regulatory concerns," it said.

Saint-Gobain in July said it expected to close the sale by year-end.

Industry leader Owens-Illinois Inc, Saint-Gobain Containers Inc and Ardagh dominate the $5 billion U.S. market for glass containers.

The Federal Trade Commission in July said Ardagh's purchase of the unit would give the Irish company and Owens-Illinois over 75 percent of the U.S. market for beer and liquor bottles between them.

A hearing on the merger is due to begin on December 2.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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