SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Senoplast Klepsch & Co. GmbH & Co. KG of Piesendorf, Austria, is expanding its sheet manufacturing activity to the Americas.
In Mexico, the firm is putting an 11 million-pound-per-year plant in Queretaro, close to Mexico City, while in Brazil it recently bought a 20 percent share in Waltap SA Industria e Comercio de Plasticos, located in Cotia, near Sao Paulo.
Senoplast's Mexican subsidiary is scheduled to begin operating in mid-1999, and plans to double its capacity the following year. The $15 million unit was designed to serve mainly the North American automotive and sanitary industries.
``If things go as planned, this new plant shall achieve a 44 million-pound-per-year capacity in 2004,'' said President Wilhelm Klepsch.
Part of Senoplast's strategy for North and South America is based on the growing popularity of the city-car concept, which would use plastic bodies instead of steel to achieve lighter weights. The firm already supplies sheets for the Ligier city-car model in Europe and is involved in the Smart project being lead by Mercedes-Benz and Swatch.
``Chrysler has just developed its all-plastic car and other manufacturers are also going the same direction,'' Klepsch said. ``We want to participate in the Americas market, so that when all these new projects start to become reality, we will already be there.''
Besides molding sheet for technical applications, Senoplast also serves other segments such as packaging.
The firm has a production unit in Piesendorf and is partner in a polycarbonate-sheet joint venture in India. This year, its production capacity is being increased from 75 million to 88 million pounds per year. In 1997, the firm had $85 million in sales.
In Brazil, Senoplast closed the equity acquisition deal with Waltap in November, said Fernando Nicolosi, Waltap general manager. He would not disclose terms, but said the deal included Senoplast's technology and the right to produce under its Senosan trademark and to represent the firm's products in South America.
Waltap's 21,000-square-foot plant processes 8 million pounds of sheet per year for phone cards, displays, civil construction and automotive applications. Currently, the firm is investing $4 million to $5 million to double its plant size and add a five-layer, 22 million-pound-per-year coextrusion line, which is expected to start up by the third quarter of 1998.