With renewed independence imminent, H. Muehlstein & Co. Inc. is looking toward an expansive future. Mobil Chemical Co. announced Nov. 2 it has agreed to return ownership of Muehlstein of Norwalk, Conn., to its employees in a $130 million buyout.
Muehlstein is a distributor of plastic resins and synthetic rubbers. Sales figures were not available. Mobil of Fairfax, Va., operated it as a stand-alone business for 15 years.
The employee buyout is expected to close by year's end.
While Muehlstein primarily distributes polyolefins, Damian Mullin, a field sales manager who spoke for Muehlstein, said in a Nov. 7 telephone interview that Muehlstein's managers expect to increase sales fourfold by adding engineering thermoplastics in the next few years.
``Resin producers are re-evaluating the way they bring products to the market, and third-party distributors have shown they are effective and efficient,'' Mullin said.
Muehlstein projects distributors will move 15 billion to 18 billion pounds of polymers to processors by the turn of the century, more than tripling the current amount.
``The future holds nothing but growth for our industry,'' Mullin said.
He said he expects Muehlstein to make announcements before the end of this year about new product lines.
Founded in New York in 1911 as a distributor of natural rubber, Muehlstein moved into plastic resin distribution after World War II. The firm considers itself the oldest - and largest - resin distributor in the world.
Muehlstein and its affiliates and subsidiaries distribute more than 2 billion pounds of polymers to more than 4,000 customers in 70 countries, Mullin said. Outside the Americas, Muehlstein operates under the name Pegasus Polymers.
Muehlstein's founder, Herman Muehlstein, sold the company to employees in the early 1960s, Mullin said. Mobil bought the company in 1980, to increase sales and marketing for its then-new polyethylene business. While Mobil learned from Muehlstein's sales and marketing skills, it operated the company independently, continuing its tradition as a lean, entrepreneurial venture, Mullin said.
Now, as Mobil focuses on producing petrochemicals, Mullin said Muehlstein's independent-minded managers are looking forward to developing new products for new markets.
``Historically, we have been a large-volume seller of commodity thermoplastics. We will continue to do that, but we are also looking forward to branching out into providing smaller quantities of new products, and coupling those with our value-added services,'' Mullin said.
Those services include providing local inventories, technical assistance and applications developments.