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Mining products grow US market for Sydney PU firm

By: Kate Tilley

July 18, 2013

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — A Sydney-based polyurethane manufacturer that has acquired two companies so far this year is growing its U.S. presence by focusing on PU products for mining-industry applications.

Global PU supplier Era Polymers Pty. Ltd. manufactures a range of PU products, including rigid and flexible foams; cast elastomer prepolymers; binders that bind reconstituted rubber to make sports surfaces, playgrounds and pavers; and coatings for timber floors.

Era now has two manufacturing sites in Sydney, and one each in Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand. It has sales offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland and Singapore; and research and development laboratories in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.

Alex Papamanuel, Era sales director, said the company has focused on growing its international presence in the last few years and exports to more than 70 countries. It has stock warehouses in all Australian capital cities, Malaysia, Shanghai, Dubai, Belgium, Canada, and California and Illinois, in the U.S., he said.

Papamanuel said Era’s focus in the U.S. is supplying high-performance PU elastomers for high-wear applications, particularly for the mining industry.

He said Era’s products are “well received” and have a “good track record” in the U.S. because Australia is known for its expertise as a mining country.

Era has exported directly to several U.S. companies for at least 10 years, but its U.S. focus “took off” in September 2011 when it formed a relationship with chemicals e-distributor ChemPoint.com, which is a subsidiary of a global chemical distributor Univar Inc. of Redmond, Wash.

Papamanuel said Era, unlike other Australian manufacturers, has witnessed no downturn in Australia’s PU foam market. He attributes Era’s market growth to focusing on new opportunities in the building and liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries.

Era bought two Australian PU manufacturers this year, but Papamanuel said no more acquisitions are planned in the immediate future and two is “enough for now.”

Era bought Melbourne-based PU system manufacturer Ariel Industries Pty. Ltd. on May 1 to strengthen its presence in the PU foam industry, particularly for the LNG market. Papamanuel said Ariel already has developed many foam formulations approved for LNG applications, which will see growth opportunities in the next decade and beyond.

Papamanuel said Ariel’s transition to ownership by Era is a “strategic positive” because it gives Era a manufacturing facility in Melbourne.

Era bought Sydney-based Urethane Coatings Pty. Ltd. in February to strengthened its floor coatings business. Urethane Coatings manufactures coatings and ancillary products suitable for timber, parquetry, cork and concrete flooring. Era did not keep the company’s Sydney plant, but consolidated manufacturing operations into Era’s existing plants, Papamanuel said.

He said the acquisitions are “opportunities that presented themselves” and Era was able to take advantage of them. He would not disclose acquisition costs.