BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Two major U.S. resin distributors have expanded their European operations through acquisitions, and promise a great deal more activity in the next year. Polymerland Europe, part of GE Plastics, has taken over a top chemical, rubber and plastics distributor, Gren & Bennich AB of Stockholm, Sweden, with sales of more than $90 million in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Terms were not disclosed.
The Scandinavian firm's Swedish owner, Goran Bennich, has been appointed new managing director of Polymerland Europe. He replaces Matt Espe, who took responsibility for the commercial team of GE Plastics Europe last February.
The acquisition adds about $35 million to Polymerland's distribution sales, Bennich said last week at Interplas '96, held Nov. 10-14 in Birmingham. The GE offshoot expects further European expansion in 1997.
Polymerland Europe said it will launch sales and distribution companies in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Turkey by the end of the year. Gren & Bennich already has a Finnish unit, Gren & Bennich Oy; and a Norwegian unit, Gren & Bennich AS.
Meanwhile, Ashland Plastics, the worldwide polymer distribution wing of Ashland Chemical Co. of Dublin, Ohio, moved into Spain this summer by acquiring Exter Pl sticos, the largest distributor in Spain, according to David Skoczen, Ashland's chief executive officer in Europe. Ashland also purchased two distributors in Italy last year.
Ashland, which already supplies resins in France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, is set to unveil a dramatic expansion plan to give it operations in 17 European countries by the end of this year, Skoczen said.
Skoczen, based at Ashland's regional headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, expects to announce new distribution deals by Dec. 1 to add the Nordic countries to its European network.
After that, Ashland intends to announce by year's end other expansions to take it into Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, along with a new acquisition in northern Europe, Skoczen said.
Ashland's expansion, he says, will help to triple its regional sales by next year and is a significant step toward its goal of developing the first Pan-European plastics distribution network.
Polymerland, which distributes a variety of materials, including GE products, in Germany, France, Spain, the Benelux nations and the United Kingdom, also serves Russia, South Africa and India from its European headquarters at Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands.
The GE division hopes to reveal details of its next geographical advance, which is designed to add Denmark, Italy and part of Eastern Europe next year, said Bennich. He explained that talks are under way with a GE representative in Denmark.
As an outsider, he spoke of the need to change the image of Polymerland Europe from simply a GE subsidiary to that of an independent distributor, responsive to the changing demands of various national European markets. For example, he mentioned that Polymerland Europe may consider moving its headquarters from Bergen op Zoom, which is also GE Plastics' European headquarters.
``Maybe that's not the right place for us to be. Maybe we should get out of there and be on our own, away from GE Plastics. Having a separate European office could make other suppliers more comfortable with Polymerland,'' he said.
Ashland's Skoczen referred to the trend among leading global resin producers to seek to become more competitive in an ever-tightening market. One option is partnership with or working through major distributors. Such change is benefiting the big players like Ashland, he added.
He reported that business for Ashland Plastics in Europe was up 25 percent last year. In North America, Ashland distributes resin as General Polymers.
Ashland employs about 250 in Europe; Polymerland Europe will employ about 160 after the addition of 20 from Gren & Bennich.