Packaging manufacturer Amcor has acquired major US competitor Bemis in a deal that creates a $US17 billion company and expands the Australian group’s global presence.

Under the deal announced overnight, the new, merged Amcor will have a primary listing on the New York Stock Exchange, with a secondary listing in Australia.

Amcor manufactures flexible and rigid packaging for food, beverage, healthcare, personal care and other industries, employing about 35,000 workers across 195 plants in 43 countries.

Wisconsin-based Bemis, which employs about 16,000 people and runs 56 plants globally, is considered a leader in flexible packaging manufacturing – which includes food pouches and soft packaging.

The Bemis acquisition gives Amcor immediate scale in the US flexibles market, where it has only had a small share, as opposed to its dominant position in rigid packaging such as plastic bottles.

“Amcor identified flexible packaging in the Americas as a key growth priority and this transaction delivers a step change in that region,” Amcor CEO Ron Delia said in a statement.

Bemis President and CEO William F Austen labelled the deal “transformational”.

“We believe this combination, which is an exciting growth story for both companies, will benefit all stakeholders,” Mr Austen said in a statement.

The deal comes at a time when consumer demand for environmental sustainability is shaking up the packaging industry.

A 2017 IBISWorld report identifies the need for packaging manufacturers to focus on creating cost-effective, environmentally friendly plastic products to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

The combined Amcor-Bemis company has pledged to develop all packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025.

“There are an increasing number of opportunities arising for a leading packaging company to capitalise on shifting consumer needs, an evolving customer landscape and the need to provide responsible packaging solutions that protect the environment,” Mr Delia said.

“With this transaction, Amcor will have a stronger value proposition with the scale, breadth and resources to unlock value from these opportunities, for the benefit of our shareholders, customers and employees.”

Under the deal, Amcor will issue 5.1 of its shares for each Bemis share, valuing the stock at $US57.75 per share, and Bemis shareholders will end up with 29 per cent of the combined company.

With Amcor taking on Bemis’s debt of about $US1.5 billion, the deal is worth about $US6.8 billion ($9.2 billion).

Amcor shares fell six per cent, with analysts viewing the deal as not meeting Amcor’s traditional approach to acquisitions having to deliver around a 20 per cent return on investment.

Amcor shares closed down 89 cents, or 5.8 per cent, at $14.39.