Integrated Mexican PET resin producer and blow molder Kimex SA de CV is investing US$20 million to double its bottle-grade resin capacity next year to 154 million pounds. The family-run firm expects to double its output to 66 million pounds of preforms by the end of 1996. It plans to buy ``six or seven more'' Husky injection molding machines in the next year, according to PET division manager Alan Guindi.
In the past year, Kimex of Tlanepantla, Mexico, has invested US$10 million expanding its preform and bottle blowing operations with the installation of three 96-cavity Husky injection machines and a Sidel B10 blow molder.
Kimex already ran three 48-cavity Husky injection machines; three converted Cincinnati Milacron RHB 5 blow molding machines that can make 4,000 bottles per hour; and a Sidel B06, 6,600-bottle-per-hour blowing unit.
The firm had held up a plan to expand PET resin capacity until it was assured of new supplies of the raw material purified terephtalic acid. New PTA capacity is being brought on stream in May or June by Mexico's monopoly supplier Petrocel SA, part of the Monterrey-based industrial conglomerate Grupo Alfa, Guindi said. Kimex will start its new PET production in July.
The firm has modified ambitious plans it had last year to expand its own blow molding activities, including one to set up several regional pilot molding plants, as a result of Mexico's lingering economic crisis.
``Our situation over financial credit in Mexico really left us behind with any plans we had for investing in new plants and in [putting in] blowing machines for our clients' operations,'' Guindi said, referring to high interest rates and the current difficulties in borrowing money.
``You need an enormous amount of capital to install [blow molding] machines with your clients, so we have left it to our clients to get their own credit and own machines. We will support them technically,'' ac-cording to Guindi.
The company now plans to limit its blow molding to specialty molds and to clients who do not need high volumes of bottles, Guindi said. The firm also has slowed its blow molding because of the trend among large soft drink customers to blow their own bottles from preforms brought in from outside.
Kimex, part of the textiles to real estate Grupo Kindy, has benefited from the effect of the Mexican peso devaluation against the U.S. dollar. The firm has dramatically increased exports of resin, preforms and even in one case, PET bottles, chiefly to South America.
``In January we were exporting 25 percent to 30 percent of prod-uction and we had to turn that round to exporting 65 percent to 70 percent, and do it fast,'' Guindi said. ``We were in luck that this year, PET resin all over the world has been in extreme demand because of its scarcity.''
Peru now represents a significant market for Kimex products, and it was there that in January the company sold a consignment of PET bottles.
Despite its reluctance to expand its own blow molding further, Kimex recognizes the tremendous growth prospects for PET in Mexico's huge soft drink market.
Since July the Mexican firm has been making preforms and blow molding contoured 20-ounce and 2-liter bottles for Coke. Kimex is now working with a local bottler, Coca Cola Femsa SA de CV, to develop new containers, such as a 1-liter contoured bottle, Guindi said.
According to Guindi, the PET resin shortage in Mexico could have been more serious had it not been for the effects of the economic crisis. Even though the current installed capacity stands at about 331 million pounds a year, he said consumption remains at just more than 200 million pounds.
Kimex has embarked on what Guindi predicts eventually will be a big development in plastics food packaging in Mexico. It is using its small laboratory Nissei machine to develop hot-fillable containers made with polyethylene napthalate. Tests are being run in conjunction with clients.
``The problem is that it is still very expensive and cannot yet compete with glass,'' Guindi said. ``[Although] that's a big market we're looking at.''