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Rank GroupWins Battle for Swiss Packaging Company
Zurich, Switzerland, 13 March 2007 -- Graeme Hart has seen off a rival bidder for Swiss packaging company SIG. Norway's Elopak gave up the fight to acquire SIG on Tuesday, saying it would not make a fresh counterbid after Hart's wholly owned Rank Group raised its offer for SIG.

Rank's new bid values the group at about 2.8 billion Swiss francs.

Ferd, Elopak's parent company, and private equity group CVC, which together mounted the bid on behalf of the Norwegian packaging company, said in a statement they had sold 8.24% of SIG and would sell their remaining 2.38% stake.

Rank said previously that it had a 22% stake in the Swiss company and had upped its cash offer to 435 francs per share.

Elopak in January had sweetened its original bid, raising it to 400 francs from 325 francs.

"Ferd/CVC continue to be convinced that combining SIG with Elopak would have offered SIG and its shareholders the best industrial prospects," said the statement.

"However, Ferd/CVC are not willing to pay a price for SIG that could compromise the business rationale of the transaction," it added.

"Rank is now the largest shareholder in SIG, and is committed to this strategic position and in due course would anticipate discussing appropriate board representation," Rank said on Sunday in a statement.

SIG, one of the world's largest food and drink packagers, has said its board would issue a response within eight trading days once the increased offer is published on March 13.

Rank, which owns CHH, a market leader in cardboard and packaging in Australia and New Zealand, has said it planned to acquire 100% in SIG and to continue its business as an independent unit under current management as a platform for future growth. Rank's previous bid was 370 francs.

Elopak was aiming to create an even stronger rival to the market leader, privately owned global giant TetraPak of Sweden.

Both Elopak and SIG make plastic bottles and cardboard cartons used to package juice and milk.

Rank secured its latest acquisition in December, when International Paper agreed to sell its beverage packaging unit.


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