BAMBERGER EXPECTS BUSINESS BOOM IN '97

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LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — Although approaching its 30th anniversary in business, Bamberger Polymers Inc. continues to act like an upstart, growing 20-25 percent a year.

Bamberger, a leading global distributor and supplier of prime and wide-spec thermoplastics, celebrated its 10th anniversary under its founder, Gerald Bamberger, and observed its 20th anniversary as a unit of Helm Resources Inc., a holding company that put the firm's shares on the American Stock Exchange.

It will celebrate its 30th anniversary as an independent firm under its longtime managers — Fred Garcia and Larry Ubertini. Garcia, president and chief executive officer, and Ubertini, senior executive vice president, joined Bamberger in the late 1960s, just after the firm was founded as a regional distributor in the New York metropolitan area.

They were with the company through its significant growth as an international distributor and trader of thermoplastic resins, and they managed the firm after Gerald Bamberger sold it to Helm Resources in 1984. Bamberger retired after Helm bought the firm.

Garcia and Ubertini stayed on to help Helm turn Bamberger into a publicly traded company in 1987 and, in 1993, they led the management buyout of Bamberger that returned its status as a private, independent company. Financial details of that buyout were not made public.

Now, with the debt from their buyout paid off, and armed with a $25 million line of credit arranged early in 1996, Garcia and Ubertini say Bamberger is poised for significant growth in 1997. They spoke in an interview at their offices in Lake Success.

In the management buyout, Garcia and Ubertini shed the company's compounding unit —known as Chemtrusion Inc. — to focus on its ongoing trading and distribution businesses. Garcia and Ubertini decided not to buy Chemtrusion, but purchased the firm's other assets, names and trademarks and ongoing trading and distribution business.

Bamberger continues to sell name-brand and trademarked products, and the company now contracts for toll compounding for compounded materials it sells, Ubertini said.

Bamberger's business includes high-volume, prime thermoplastic resins sold under distribution contracts for Solvay Polymers Inc., Eastman Chemical Co., Novatec Plastics/Chemical, Plaskolite Inc. and Nilit Ltd.

Also, the company sells its own generic line of high-volume, prime thermoplastic resins under the Bapolene, Bapolon and Bapolan trade names and a full line of near-prime and wide-spec grades of resins. Bamberger also sells engineering resins.

``1996 was an outstanding year, and we had excellent results. We are looking at 1997 optimistically. It's going to be a strong year with a 20-25 percent increase in our volume,'' Garcia said.

Garcia and Ubertini said they expect softening prices for resins to give their business a boost in 1997.

``In 1997, due to overcapacities [for some resins], suppliers will look to Bamberger to move their resins. Resin producers will be under pressure as their margins compress, and we expect that to increase our volumes dramatically,'' Garcia said.

This cyclical overcapacity will provide Bamberger more sales domestically. Beyond those increased sales, Garcia and Ubertini said they expect increased international business in 1997.

Bamberger gets half of its sales from U.S. markets, where it has five sales offices and a distribution division, Ubertini said.

The other half of its sales come from transactions in Europe, Canada, the Far East and South America, he said.

Bamberger's development as an international supplier of resins has paralleled — and sometimes foreshadowed — moves by resin producers.

``In 1974, we established our first company in Europe — in the Netherlands — and we now have operations in Mexico and Hong Kong and South America. We have a presence in China, the most competitive market in the world,'' Garcia said.

Garcia said Bamberger is active in purchasing resin in Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Russia. From Russia, he said Bamberger sells thermoplastic resins to companies in Western Europe.

``We look at every new thermoplastic resin production facility as a potential source, and we prefer to ship product to the nearest destination,'' he said.

To do that, he said Bamberger maintains a computer database in each region of the world that is updated continually with information on customers, suppliers, and tariffs, taxes and more.

``We have nearly 50 salespeople now,'' he said.

He said the company moved 500 million pounds of resin in 1995 and 600 million pounds in 1996.