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National Plastics to open Panama plant

VALLEY CENTER, KAN. — National Plastics Color Inc. of Valley Center plans to open a Panama City, Panama, colorant and additive masterbatch distribution facility by the end of April.

The facility will be National Plastics' third international expansion in about 18 months and will supply that country and South America. Its San Josť, Costa Rica, distribution operation started to supply Central American markets in late 1995.

In September, National Plastics opened a joint venture compounding plant in Kunming, China, called Kunming Kunshasi Plastics Co. Ltd.

National Plastics spokeswoman Lisa Mercer said her firm's Valley Center plant can make 55 million pounds of concentrates annually, about five times as much as the Chinese joint venture, its only other manufacturing facility. Its partner in China is Yunnan MT Co. Ltd., which holds a minority interest in the Kunming operation. Kunming Kunshasi mainly supplies China's provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan. Mercer said her company also has a distribution operation in Mexico.

The firm's annual sales are about $36 million.

BASF, Owens Corning may form alliance

LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY — BASF AG may be considering a serious run at the North American market for glass-fiber-mat-reinforced thermoplastics, and has allied with Owens Corning to conduct a feasibility study.

In part, the study will analyze the ramifications of Azdel Inc.'s March 11 acquisition of Exxon Chemical Co.'s Taffen thermoplastics compounding business. Observers believe the March 12 BASF-Owens Corning announcement may signal the alliance's intention to compete on Azdel's home turf. GE Plastics and PPG Industries Inc. co-own Shelby, N.C.-based Azdel.

BASF makes Elastopreg-brand composite materials at subsidiary Elastogran GmbH in Lotte, Germany, for use in structural automotive front ends, bumper beams and seating and other applications. Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning does not compete in those market. BASF sells limited quantities of Elastopreg in the United States after several years of making samples available. A positive study could lead the firms in a few months to form a joint venture to market GMT and, when volumes justify, to establish a U.S. production facility.

BASF spokesman Walter Geschwill in Ludwigshafen, where the firm is based, said the annual worldwide GMT market approaches 198 million pounds with U.S. consumption at about 72 million pounds. An Owens Corning official estimates the worldwide GMT market has a value of about $100 million.

Cannon purchases Sandretto Group

TREZZANO, ITALY — Cannon Group acquired injection press supplier Sandretto Group on March 19 for undisclosed terms.

Cannon, a major in polyurethane foam equipment, had sales of about $260 million last year, about three-quarters of which was for plastics processing equipment. The Trezzano-based firm estimated Sandretto's sales last year at $150 million.

Cannon's announcement confirmed speculation early this year that it was bidding for Sandretto of Turin, Italy. Italy's government has owned Sandretto since 1993. Under the country's Legge Prodi laws, government can take control of and protect strategic companies that run into financial difficulties. Cannon claimed its purchase of Sandretto was the first time such a protected company was sold to a firm that guarantees to continue the business for a long period.

Sandretto makes injection presses with clamping forces of 30-5,500 tons. Cannon also makes plastics thermoforming and composites machinery, molds and other industrial equipment.

AET's slitter down, firm stays on track

TERRE HAUTE, IND. — A manufacturing problem at Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc.'s Terre Haute plant will not affect customer service or hinder plans to add oriented polypropylene film capacity this year.

Despite a broken roll in an 8-meter slitter, AET has more than 20 million pounds of OPP in inventory, and the problem will be corrected in the next few weeks,said Anthony Allot, vice president and chief financial officer.

``The shaft in the roll [of the slitter] fatigued and broke,'' he said. ``We only have one working now.''

AET of Peabody, Mass., also makes OPP film in Covington, Va., and Varennes, Quebec. It plans to add a 33-foot-wide, 50 million-pound-per-year OPP line in Terre Haute late this year.