Germany's ZF discusses sale of rubber and plastics unit to Chinese firm

David Vink
PLASTICS NEWS CORRESPONDENT

Published: August 26, 2013 3:00 pm ET
Updated: September 5, 2013 1:36 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Automotive Mergers & Acquisitions Injection Molding
Companies & Associations

ZF Friedrichshafen AG, Germany's third largest automotive supplier and among the top 10 worldwide, has confirmed reports that it is in the early stages of discussions to sell its rubber and plastics (R&P) department.

A local newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ), revealed Aug. 22 that ZF is looking "very closely" at a specific offer from the Chinese railway products company Zhuzhou Times New Material Technology Co. Ltd. (TMT).

According to that report, ZF chief Stefan Sommer disclosed TMT's interest at an Aug. 22 meeting attended by 800 employees in the ZF R&P headquarters plant in Damme, Germany.

TMT supplies rubber and metal suspension materials for train and other track transport systems, as well as for wind power plants. Sommer maintained that TMT products complement ZF's R&P products in terms of market, customer and regional perspectives, stressing that TMT wants to set foot in Europe.

In a press statement last week and earlier in the ZF annual report, the company has expressed dissatisfaction with returns at R&P. ZF has said following consolidation in the market, competitors have cost advantages and more flexible structures than ZF.

Jürgen Weller of the IG Metall trade union told the General Anzeiger newspaper that ZF's rubber and plastics business is profitable, "but are not as high as ZF wants. But that is due to the rubber parts being dependent by nature on rubber prices."

NOZ reported that ZF's R&P department has around 3,400 employees worldwide and 2012 sales of 718 million euros ($960 million), up 6 percent from 2011. Company-wide, ZF has almost 74,000 employees.

ZF R&P has 1,700 employees in three German plants: Bonn, where its has R&D, Damme and Simmern. A ZF spokesman said the company has invested almost 30 million euros in the past three years to expand the Damme plant, where about 1,000 employees make items such as rubber and plastic connectors, airbag housings, servo pump oil containers, plastic composite pedals, hydraulic supports for engines, as well as components for gear-changing and steering systems.

He was clearly attempting to overcome concerns among staff that TMT would close down the German plants. He suggested ZF's investment "is definitely different to other company acquisitions in Germany and Europe, where the old owner lets a location bleed before it is taken over by investors."

Nevertheless, staff expressed concerns that, as ZF itself has set up a R&P production site in China, TMT may be seeking German know-how just in order to develop further in China. A sale would require the R&P business to be firstly split off from ZF into a separate company and even if staff are retained, concerns were expressed by staff about retention of their ZF company pension rights and central pay agreements.

Thorsten Gröger from the IG Metall trade union in Nienburg-Stadthagen said, "we consider the whole thing with much skepticism. If the future prospects for R&P are very good in the hands of an investor, they should also be so under ZF, in the view of the employees."

TMT is listed on the Shanghai stock market and is a subsidiary of state-owned CSR Corp. TMT employs around 2,700 people and achieved sales of 457 million euros in 2012, up from 422 million euros in 2011.

Aside from the three German plants, ZF has R&P operations in Hebron, Ky.; Sorocaba, Brazil; Shanghai; Trnava, Slovakia; and Melbourne, Australia.


Comments

Germany's ZF discusses sale of rubber and plastics unit to Chinese firm

David Vink
PLASTICS NEWS CORRESPONDENT

Published: August 26, 2013 3:00 pm ET
Updated: September 5, 2013 1:36 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Jaguar Land Rover to begin using MuCell across its product line

April 27, 2015 9:47 am ET

Another automaker has announced plans to use Trexel Inc.'s MuCell molding technology in future production.    More

Image

Haitian builds system for Renault's new China auto assembly plant

April 24, 2015 11:10 am ET

A late-comer to the world's largest auto market, French carmaker Renault SA is currently building its first factory in China.    More

Image

Eriks NV buys two US polymer companies

April 24, 2015 10:38 am ET

Dutch company Eriks NV is expanding its reach in the North American plastics sector with two acquisitions: Dallas-based Seals and Packings Inc. and...    More

Image

Jeco adds Ferry rotational molder to handle increase in business

April 23, 2015 12:27 pm ET

Jeco Plastics Products LLC is ramping up for more work, adding a new Ferry 2600 rotational molder that will provide more capabilities.    More

Image

Engel, VW working on joint research into high volume composites in auto

April 23, 2015 9:40 am ET

Engel, the Austria-based manufacturer of injection molding machines, is building one of its largest machines for a research center looking into integr...    More

Market Reports

North American Thermoformed Packaging Market Outlook & Review 2015

Our annual report provides a thorough review and analysis of economic and political conditions, emerging market trends, packaging design advances, materials pricing and sustainable packaging issues impacting supply and demand in the TP segment. Our analysts identify key drivers of growth and opportunities for processors to remain competitive in the years ahead through innovation, production efficiencies and more.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 15, 2015 - September 17, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events