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A. Schulman steps up investment in Asia

By: Steve Toloken

May 22, 2013

GUANGZHOU, CHINA — Materials firm A. Schulman Inc. is in the midst of an expansion that is more than doubling capacity at its compounding plant in Dongguan, China, part of a broader effort to make Asia a much larger portion of global sales.

The Fairlawn, Ohio-based firm added a compounding line for engineering plastics in Dongguan in late 2012, and plans to add one more each for engineering plastics and masterbatches there in the next 18 months.

It's one of a series of investments planned to grow Asian revenues from less than 10 percent of global business to something more balanced with its other major regions, said Derek Bristow, vice president and general manager of Asia Pacific for A. Schulman, in a May 22 interview at the Chinaplas trade show.

"In the next 5 years we would like to quadruple sales in Asia," he said. "We have fairly ambitious growth plans for Asia."

Bristow said the company also is looking at buying other companies or factories: "Obviously we want to grow organically but we are looking seriously at finding acquisitions throughout Asia."

The investments in Dongguan include a 9,000 metric ton compounding line for engineering plastics that started operating in late 2012, and plans for two more lines of 15,000 tons each engineering plastics and masterbatches that will become operational in the next 18 months.

That would bring capacity at the plant from 30,000 tonnes at the start of 2012 to 69,000 tonnes.

"In China we find that the engineering polymers business is doing better than we expected," Bristow said. "China is actually our most profitable business in Asia."

He attributed the success in China partly to the company's links with global manufacturers, and their need for material that meets their specifications at their China factories.

The company in April opened its first factory in India, for manufacturing additive concentrates.

That factory's first production line likely will fill up in six months, and require a second, and the company is also looking at adding compounding capacity for engineering plastics in India in several years, he said.

A. Schulman plans a smaller capacity expansion in Malaysia as well, he said. It also has Asia Pacific factories in Australia and Indonesia.

"Asia Pacific has got a much, much bigger chunk of the investment pie," he said.