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Styrolution sees growth for PS in North America

By: Frank Esposito

April 4, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 4, 7:10 a.m. ET) — Global polystyrene giant Styrolution Group GmbH (Booth 13500) is excited about prospects for the material in North America.

“North America is going to be a success story for polystyrene, after several years of being quite depressed,” chief executive officer Roberto Gualdoni said in an interview at NPE2012. “Consumer demand is up and polypropylene is more expensive. Both of those work in our favor.”

It’s still in the early going for Styrolution – formed in October as a joint venture of the styrenics units of BASF SE and Ineos Group – but Gualdoni said his Frankfurt-based firm is seeing low single-digit growth in North America and expects that to continue. “We’ve got good momentum and a tailwind here,” he said.

Elsewhere around the world, Gualdoni said that European PS “is staying where it is” partly because it lacks a price advantage vs. PP in that market. By comparison, in Asia, “everything is booming,” as increased standards of living spur high growth in China and India, which are growing faster than “older economies” such as Japan and Korea.

At NPE2012, Styrolution’s new products include a new high-impact PS grade with higher gloss for the food service market. The material can be blended with crystal PS or used as a stand-alone resin, account manager Bevan Basham said. It’s being aimed at food service cups and graphic arts printing applications.

Styrolution also has commercialized a new, higher heat-resistant grade of Terluran-brand ABS for auto interior and exterior applications. The grade already has received approvals at General Motors.

Also at NPE, Styrolution is spotlighting three PS grades with 25 percent post consumer recycled content. NextLife of Boca Raton, Fla., is supplying Styrolution with recycled content for the new materials.

Gualdoni is managing Styrolution’s ups and downs. Recent styrenics expansion moves in South Korea and India, as well as a technology investment in Germany, have been offset by a production shift that will result in the closing of a German PS and styrene monomer plant. It’s all part of the challenges of a company with $8.3 billion in annual sales that employs 3,400 at 17 sites worldwide.

“I think it’s working well,” Gualdoni said of Styrolution’s first six months. “And I think one of the facts that’s bringing things together so smoothly is that our business has been very challenged for several years, so our people have gone through the ups and downs.”

“They know what to do in almost every situation. They know how to handle volatility and they know that we need to invest in our assets.”