SHANGHAI — Clariant AG is based in Switzerland, but its eyes are firmly focused further east.
“Our future lies in Asia,” declared Christian Kohlpaintner, a member of the executive committee of the multinational specialty chemicals supplier, in Shanghai on April 22. He was addressing a group of (mostly Chinese) media representatives at a Clariant press event on the day before the Chinaplas 2014 trade show opened.
Kohlpaintner pointed out how the company's sales in the Greater China region (which includes South Korea, by Clariant's definition) increased by 7.3 percent last year, to 646 million Swiss francs ($730 million). Its 1,500 employees in China represent 8 percent of Clariant's global workforce of just over 18,000. The broader Asia Pacific region accounted for 23 percent of the firm's SwF 6.08 billion ($6.87 billion) in 2013 sales. And company officials only expect those percentages to rise.
That growth is being driven in part by aggressive investments in the region, which company officials outlined at the media event. While Kohlpaintner would not be drawn out on specifics about these various projects, he did say that if all the announced expansions proceed as planned, they will represent a total investment in “the low double-digit millions” of Swiss francs.
Here's a snapshot of Clariant's activity in the region:
• Its Masterbatches business unit — which has four production units and two sales offices in Greater China — plans to double manufacturing capacity at its Guangzhou site in South China, and build a new plant (targeting textile fiber customers) at its Tangerang site in Indonesia.
• Its Pigments business unit — which has two production sites and is doubling (to 28 people) the size of its marketing and technical sales staff in Greater China — reasserted its announced intention to build a "world-scale plant" in Zhenjiang, China, to make Pigment Violet 23 (PV 23), a high-performance pigment used in wide variety of formulations and applications in coatings, plastics and printing inks. That same business unit also plans to build a new pigments preparation plant in Tangerang, Indonesia, and boost production capacity at its Roha, India, plant by about 50 percent.
• Its Additives business unit — whose portfolio includes Addworks polymer additives as well as Exolit flame retardants and various processing aids — currently is evaluating options for a new plant (probably by early 2016) to make its Ceridust miconized waxes. The additives business unit currently operates one joint-venture plant in Greater China, in Kunming, Yunnan province, but Clariant is considering building a new plant for Addworks products in Zhenjiang.
In an interview session after the press conference, Heinter Mertens, head of the masterbatches business in Asia Pacific, also commented on Clariant's recently introduced liquid masterbatch service called HiFormer. He noted that liquid is “still a niche,” accounting for less than 5 percent of the overall market, but said he sees strong, double-digit growth for the liquid products for next few years. Some of that, Mertens noted, will be market growth and some will be product substitution.