By: David Eldridge
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS
June 30, 2014
Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) has announced a consolidation of its polycarbonate sheet business, involving plant closures and divestment in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
In Europe, the group is closing its PC sheet site in Darmstadt, Germany, while in China it will consolidate sheet production at the Guangzhou site and close its Beijing site. BMS also plans to sell its sheet business in Australia and New Zealand, along with the Laserlite brand name.
In a news release, BMS said: “Behind all of these consolidation measures is the current business situation. Market development in the overall polycarbonate business has changed dramatically in recent years, with new competitors and overcapacities exacerbated by insufficient demand from the customer industries. In light of this difficult situation, Bayer MaterialScience conducted a thorough review of its polycarbonate business model, which includes the global sheet business.”
The review led to the decision that consolidation was necessary “to ensure the long-term viability of the business as a whole and to remain competitive,” the group said.
Expressing optimism about the future of the group’s PC business, Markus Steilemann, head of the polycarbonates business unit, said: “The demand for the high-performance plastic polycarbonate continues to grow year-to-year and worldwide at rates that will soon wipe out the current overcapacities. By adjusting our alignment, we are strengthening our leading market position.”
As a result of the changes, the group’s PC sheet business will reduce its total number of facilities from 10 to seven in Europe, Asia and North America. Replying to questions from European Plastics News, BMS would not reveal its PC sheet capacity but said its annual PC resin production capacity is 1.3 million metric tons.
“The polycarbonate resin business remains untouched by the current consolidation of our global sheet production,” said BMS in its replies to EPN.
The future of BMS, which includes polyurethanes as well as PC, has been the subject of speculation, with some observers suggesting the Bayer group is looking to sell all or part of the division.
However, BMS said it was not speaking to other companies about selling its two other PC sheet plants in Europe.
“We believe that the business with polycarbonate sheets in Europe remains attractive on the whole. Our analysis has shown that certain sheet businesses, such as that in Australia and New Zealand, are niche operations for BMS that can be better served by operators with a more suitable business model to ensure growth and a sustainable future. We therefore decided to divest our operations there. This is not in discussion for Europe,” the company said.
The Darmstadt closure affects 90 employees. Customers in Europe will continue to be supplied from sheet plants in Nera Montoro, Italy, and Tielt, Belgium.
The decision to close Darmstadt was “based on a thorough analysis of a number of economic and commercial criteria. The result of the analysis showed the site in Nera Montoro to be the most economically viable one,” BMS said.
Bayer’s Makrolon PC sheet is used in building applications, including canopies, facades, security windows, shelters and skylights. A high-profile application for Makrolon is as a roofing material for the Arena das Dunas (The Stadium of the Dunes) in the coastal city of Natal, Brazil, which is being used for matches in the World Cup.