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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australia Ltd. plans to reduce PVC imports from North America and Asia, following completion of an A$43 million (US$34.2 million) expansion to its PVC plant in Melbourne.

Murray Winstanley, general manager, ICI vinyls division, said the expansions have increased the plant's annual production from 132.3 million pounds to 308.7 million pounds.

He said the upgraded plant will ensure that ICI's PVC operations are internationally competitive.

The two-stream Melbourne plant produces vinyl chloride monomer. Much of the VCM for ICI's PVC production previously was imported from North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Australia also imports secondary PVC products from North America, Asia and Europe.

Melbourne-based ICI is one of only two Australian PVC manufacturers. The other is Auseon Ltd., also of Melbourne.

All ICI PVC production now is consolidated at Melbourne, following the closure of ICI's outdated Sydney, Australia, PVC plant in September. Expansions to the Melbourne plant took two years to complete.

ICI's plastic division recorded a 97 percent drop in profit before tax for the year ended June 30. ICI directors attributed the profit drop, from A$73 million (US$58.1 million) to A$2 million (US$1.6 million), to low plastics prices internationally and a downturn in Australia's housing and construction markets.