Ever toted a 12-pack home? If so, you can appreciate Graphic Packaging Holding Company's (GPHC) work. Operating subsidiary Graphic Packaging International (GPII) is a leading maker of laminated, coated, and printed packaging such as beverage carriers, cereal boxes, microwavable food packaging, and detergent cartons. Its two business segments include flexible packaging and paperboard packaging, the latter of which generates most of GPII's sales. The company also produces strength, promotional, and barrier packaging. Customers include Kraft Foods, Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors Brewing, General Mills, SABMiller, and various Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottlers.
GPHC was formed after the businesses of Graphic Packaging Corporation (GPC) and Altivity Packaging were merged in 2008, with GPHC emerging as the publicly-traded parent company. With this transaction, the company, which had been averaging about $2.5 billion in revenues, suddenly saw that number increase to more than $4 billion in 2008; sales numbers have remained somewhat flat ever since. Not so for GPHC's net income, which switched from an almost $100 million net income loss in 2008 to a net income gain of more than $56 million in 2009; it dropped again in 2010 to about $11 million. While 2009 was impacted by the company's merger with Altivity, Graphic Packaging blames its net income loss primarily on a $138 million alternative fuel tax credit it received in 2009, causing subsequent high input costs in 2010.
What generates these sales is the company's production of paper wares from its more than 55 mills and paperboard converting and flexible packaging plants in North America and Europe. Different products require different grades of paperboard, including coated unbleached kraft (CUK), coated-recycled board (CRB), and uncoated-recycled board (URB) -- these come from third-party suppliers. Graphic Packaging uses as much as 80% of its coated board output in its carton converting operations. In addition to paper products, the company also makes heat transfer and lithographic labels, as well as manufactures and installs company-designed packaging machines.
The above-mentioned merger with Altivity super sized Graphic Packaging. As one of the top producers of coated-recycled boxboard in North America, Altivity pushed Graphic Packaging's capacity to more than 80 manufacturing and converting facilities. The merger diversified Graphic Packaging's product lines, as well, through Altivity's folding carton converting operations and ink manufacturing, labeling, and flexible packaging facilities.
Intent on competing as the lowest cost producer in its industry, the company has aggressively moved to streamline manufacturing operations. Graphic Packaging closed several of Altivity paperboard packaging facilities in 2010. The shrink follows Graphic Packaging's closure in 2009 of one of its own paperboard packaging facilities and a multi-wall bag plant, along with a 10% headcount reduction. Regulator-approval in acquiring Altivity also required Graphic Packaging to divest two coated-recycled paperboard mills.
Other belt-tightening programs were implemented due to the global economic crisis, during which time Graphic Packaging made a concerted effort to do more with less; it chose to exit businesses deemed peripheral to its packaging activities. In 2009 the company sold certain assets and liabilities of its Handschy inks, coatings, and varnishes business to Sun Chemical, for an undisclosed amount. Graphic Packaging is also moving to lower cost regions by entering into joint ventures with companies in China, a region of potential growth, especially in the multi-pack beverage packaging market.
As a new period of recovery arrived, the company geared up again in 2011 and purchased the assets and business of California-based Sierra Pacific Packaging, a manufacturer of packaging for consumer goods, such as beverage carriers and corrugated boxes, for approximately $53.5 million. The acquisition opens up the West Coast market to Graphic Packaging.
The company took its current form in 2003 when privately held Riverwood Holding, owner of paperboard maker Riverwood International, bought rival Graphic Packaging International Corporation. Parent company Riverwood Holding changed its name to Graphic Packaging Corporation and combined its operating units to form subsidiary Graphic Packaging International, Inc. When the company merged with Altivity Packaging in 2008, it, again, changed its name to Graphic Packaging Holding Company. As a result, former shareholders of Graphic Packaging own around 60% of the merged company, including an 18% stake held by the family of board member Jeffrey Coors, who also serves as trustee of several Adolph Coors trusts, which hold about a 15% stake. Buyout firm TPG Capital, by virtue of its former majority stake in Altivity, controls 38% of Graphic Packaging. – less