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WASHINGTON — GE Plastics' Structured Products unit plans to spend $19 million to upgrade Brazilian and Chinese polycarbonate sheet and film plants to boost its extruding capacity to 200 million pounds a year.

The unit is now a separate profit center, a change from the previous system where Structured Products plants in different countries reported to local GE Plastics resin officials. The moves will help the unit, which has $450 million in annual sales, achieve a stronger presence globally and better serve booming markets, general manager Lyndon Cole said in a Feb. 5 interview in Washington.

Globally, the Pittsfield, Mass.-based company now can produce 165 million pounds of extruded film and sheet each year.

The Brazilian plant, in Campinas, will make Lexan PC clear multiwall sheet in a market that is growing 50 percent a year, he said. The Chinese plant, in Nansha, will make Lexan film in a market growing 30 percent a year.

Making Structured Products a separate profit-and-loss center will mean it will now report directly to Gary Rogers, chief executive officer of GE Plastics.

Now all Structured Products units will report to Cole, said Ian Carter, general manager of marketing for Structured Products.

``We have many customers who are global in nature,'' Carter said. ``We don't have that parochial outlook anymore.''

The unit was made a separate center eleven months ago but it was not announced until last week, Cole said.

Cole would not provide details on the number of workers employed as a result of the upgrades. He said both plants will be built on the site of existing GE Plastics facilities.

The plants will start production between August and November, with the Brazilian plant firing up first, Cole said.

GE Structured Products has about 45 percent of the North American market for PC sheet and film, while its next largest competitor has about 3 percent, according to a source close to the company. The unit was hampered in its attempt to boost global markets because some of the units its divisions reported to were ``not as aggressive on the global front,'' the source said.