Engineering resins maker Ticona is no longer for sale, and actually may be looking to make some mergers or acquisitions of its own. "Ticona is a growth segment to build on," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Munoz said in a Feb. 15 telephone interview. "We're not being shopped around at all."
Along with several other businesses owned by Hoechst AG, Ticona was spun off into the newly formed Celanese AG last year. Ticona, which ranks as the world's largest acetal maker, posted $800 million in sales in 1999, roughly 18 percent of Celanese AG's total.
Hoechst had sought buyers for Summit, N.J.-based Ticona and other units before establishing Celanese. Now, Munoz and other Ticona managers are attempting to drive the business forward, as evidenced by three deals the firm made late last year to expand its presence in Asia.
Ticona also is in the process of switching from a business line to a market segment approach. The switch, to be complete by the end of 2000, will allow Ticona staff to be assigned to markets such as automotive or electrical, rather than to a specific Ticona product such as acetal, polybutylene terephthalate or ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene.
In North America, Ticona is considering expansions at its PBT plant in Shelby, N.C., and its UHMW PE works in Houston. The company also will review possible expansion in 2001 at the polyphenylene sulfide plant it operates in Wilmington, Del., in a 50-50 joint venture with Kureha Chemical Co. of Tokyo.
Ticona also could add liquid crystal polymer capacity by debottlenecking a line in Shelby. Longer term, the company is looking at building a cyclic olefin copolymer plant in North America in three or four years if its newly opened COC plant in Oberahusen, Germany, proves successful.
In Bishop, Texas, Ticona will add 25 million pounds of nylon 6/6 compounding capacity by the end of the year. The company also plans to hold on to its long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic business, although it had considered selling the Winona, Minn., unit.
Munoz also denied that Ticona acquired half of Korea Engineered Plastics Co. Ltd. in an attempt to buy out a competitor. KEP had developed a reputation in North America for selling imported acetal at lower prices than most other producers.
"If we're looking to acquire a company and the only thing they can offer is a different return on price, we let them go," Munoz said. "What attracted us to KEP is that they offered low prices on their standard products and still made a good return because of their technology."
By using technology developed by Mitsubishi Corp., which owns the other half of KEP, Ticona hopes to be able to produce a wider range of acetal materials.
Growth-wise, Ticona expects acetal sales to climb 4 percent in 2000, with sales of PBT and UHMW PE growing 6-7 percent each.
As one of a handful of global engineering resin makers, Ticona is in a unique position of regarding materials such as acetal, PBT and UHMW PE as its "commodities," while even more highly engineered products such as PPS, LCP, LFRT and nylon compounds are looked at as specialty products aimed at specific market niches.
Munoz said this approach will not change as Ticona joins Celanese.
"Ticona is going through an evolution it needs to go through," Munoz said. "There's a lot of consolidation going on in this business. We're going to be proactive and when the dust settles we're going to be one of the leaders."