Smurfit Kappa Group has made its first acquisitions in Brazil as it looks to expand its presence in Latin America, where it claims to be the biggest regional supplier of corrugated packaging.
The Dublin-based group said it would pay €186m for two privately owned integrated paper-based packaging companies — Industria de Embalagens Santana and Paema Embalagens. The combined operations have three recycled paperboard mills and four corrugated facilities around Brazil.
Tony Smurfit, the group’s chief executive, said the acquisitions “will extend our reach into a strategically important market and build on our geographical diversity and strength”.
Smurfit has waited years to enter Brazil, the biggest market in Latin America, but has been reluctant to pay the high acquisition prices demanded by sellers. It is doing so now just as the country’s economy dips after an extended expansion fuelled by the commodities boom.
As well as an economic downturn, Brazil is facing a fiscal crunch as a result of falling government revenues and fixed expenditures, which is widening the primary deficit (the budget balance before interest payments).
Smurfit’s Latin American operations are concentrated in Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina. Its Americas operations, which also include plants in the US and Mexico, had revenues of €1.9bn in 2014, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of €305m. Globally, the group had 2014 revenues of €8bn and pre-tax earnings of €1.1bn.
Smurfit said the acquisitions would be “immediately earnings accretive” and that it expected synergies of €6m by the end of 2017 as the businesses were integrated into its wider operations.
Analysts said Smurfit was justified in waiting for the right moment to enter Brazil. The two acquisitions were made on a lower multiple than other deals in the sector. Barry Dixon, at Davy stockbrokers, said the €186m price for the two businesses “looks reasonable” compared with other recent paper and packaging acquisitions in Brazil.
Mr Smurfit is the son of Michael Smurfit, who built Smurfit into a global force in paper and packaging, and the grandson of Jefferson Smurfit, the group’s founder. He became chief executive in September last year. Shares in Smurfit were trading 3 per cent lower at lunchtime on Monday as global equity markets dipped after more signs emerged that China’s economy is slowing.