Bayer plans to invest millions in Thailand
SINGAPORE — Bayer AG plans to invest more than $276.1 million in Thailand over the next five years to boost production of engineering plastics and chemicals.
The German chemical giant is among the first multinational petrochemical firms in Thailand to publicly shrug off industry worries over lingering problems in the overborrowed economy.
The Thai baht has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the dollar in the wake of a sell-off led by foreign hedge funds.
As a result, the government recently sought help from the International Monetary Fund, which, together with a host of countries, has pledged about $16 billion in return for fiscal and market reforms.
Most industry experts agree the worst is over for Thailand, prompting some companies like Bayer to reaffirm their investment commitments.
``Bayer stands by its plans to make Thailand its center of investment in the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] region, despite the turbulence around the baht,'' said Dieter Becher, a management board member.
``I think we should not take a momentary situation as the basis for long-term investment,'' Becher told reporters. ``I am firmly convinced that Thailand will be a stable foothold on Bayer's way to expand its market position particularly in ASEAN and Asia as a whole.''
Bayer sank its roots in Thailand 35 years ago, and hopes to profit from long-term investments in the country.
The company recently opened its $5.3 million regional headquarters in Bangkok amid much fanfare. The new center will serve as a base for Southeast Asia, including Australia and New Zealand, and house 400 of Bayer's 1,200 employees in Thailand.
In 1996, Asia Pacific sales contributed 16 percent, or $4.2 billion, to Bayer's group sales, a 3 percent rise over 1995, according to industry sources.
``We want to increase that share to at least 25 percent in the next 10-15 years,'' Becher said.
Over the same period, sales in Southeast Asia alone rose 10 percent over a year earlier. Sales in Thailand contributed to more than a quarter of total Southeast Asian revenues, Becher said.
``Our objective is to double sales in Asia within the next 10 years and to supply an increasing share of our product range from local production,'' Becher said.
PE venture starts up Singapore production
SINGAPORE — Phillips Petroleum Co.'s new 440 million-pound-per-year high density polyethylene plant has begun operating in Singapore.
The plant is a joint venture between Bartlesville, Okla.-based Phillips, Sumitomo Chemical Co. of Tokyo and Singapore Economic Development Board investments. The completed project brings total production at the site to 870 million pounds annually.
The plant's first line went into production in mid-August while its second was operational in mid-September.
Phillips officials said the new plant will help Phillips supply growing PE markets in Asia and the Pacific.
``The new Singapore plant demonstrates the aggressive building program Phillips has underway in the United States and overseas to meet expanding demand for our key plastics and chemicals,'' Jack Howe, senior vice president of chemicals and plastics, said in a prepared statement.
Distrupol buys into Swedish company
CHERTSEY, ENGLAND — Resin distributor Distrupol Ltd. announced it has acquired a majority stake in Walenstrom and Krogh, a Goteborg, Sweden, distributor.
W&K distributes engineering resins and compounds for customers including DuPont Co., Victrex Ltd. and LNP Engineering Plastics Europe BV. It reported sales of more than 100 million Swedish kronor ($18.9 million).
``This is an important move for Distrupol. It gives us the base from which to develop into a full Nordic distribution company in line with our European strategy,'' said David Jukes, Distrupol's director of European operations.
Dow setting up center to serve Asia Pacific
SINGAPORE — Dow Chemical Co. has established a regional head office in Singapore to oversee its growing polyethylene business in Asia Pacific, according to the company.
To tap into the region's demand for more sophisticated plastics products, the Midland, Mich.-based manufacturer of chemicals, plastics and agricultural products plans to set up a development center in Singapore to promote applications of its flagship products, such as Insite metallocene-catalyst PE technology.
In 1998, Dow expects to put on stream the first phase of its development center, which will house a film-testing laboratory, a multilayer cast film line and a training center.
Dow is working hard to boost Asia Pacific sales, industry sources say. Dow's sales in the region in the 1995-96 financial year, through offices in 15 countries, reached $2.6 billion — a tenth of its total sales.
Dow plans to have a major PE line up and running in Thailand by 2000. The line will use Insite technology extensively, Dow officials said at NPE 1997 in Chicago.
Dow chose Singapore for its regional office because of the country's excellent infrastructure, socioeconomic structure, advanced technology and location, according to the company.
The office will be headed by Andy DuPont, commercial director of Dow Pacific.
Elsewhere in the Asia Pacific, Dow and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. have decided to dissolve their 50-50 polyurethane joint venture in Tokyo, Dow Mitsubishi Chemical Ltd., to focus on individual businesses.
Dow Mitsubishi was formed in 1986 after Dow purchased the polypropylene glycol production division from Upjohn Co., which then had close links with Mitsubishi Kasei Corp., the predecessor of Mitsubishi Chemical.
In China, Dow in June signed a letter of intent with China Petrochemical Corp. and Tianjin Petrochemical Corp. to study the development of an integrated ethylene and downstream derivative project in Tianjin.
The company signed a similar agreement with Yangzi Petrochemical Co. to build a PET plant in Nanjing, near Shanghai.
Eastman Chemical Co. opened an office in Coral Gables, Fla., in early June to serve as its Latin American headquarters. Eastman previously had a temporary headquarters in Mexico City. The resin supplier's Latin American sales for 1996 were about $306 million, according to a news release.