Things appear to be moving onward and upward for compounder A. Schulman Inc., as the firm recently announced strong earnings and confirmed plans to build plants in China and Poland.
Schulman has done business in China and Poland for a number of years, but recent growth in those regions has been hampered by lack of manufacturing capacity, President and Chief Executive Officer Terry Haines said by phone.
Schulman has acquired land for new plants in the Warsaw, Poland, area and in China's Guangdong province - about 50 miles northwest of Hong Kong. Pending board approval, Haines said, the plants should be up and running by early 2004. Both plants will focus on producing compounds for film and packaging markets. The Polish plant will produce color concentrates and compounds based on engineering resins, while the Chinese site will make color masterbatches.
Construction costs and employee estimates for the new sites have not been determined, Haines said. Schulman currently operates 15 plants in North America, Europe and Asia.
The Fairlawn, Ohio-based firm recently completed the first half of its 2002 fiscal year, which began in September. In those six months, Schulman's profit was almost $10 million. By comparison, it earned less than $1 million in the same period in fiscal 2001.
Schulman managed to increase earnings even as its half-year sales total slipped 9 percent, from $496 million in 2001 to $452 million in 2002.
``We've seen a little bit of recovery,'' Haines said. ``Our sales into automotive were steady and other markets were looking better as well.''
Schulman also is seeing positive results from closing its Akron, Ohio, compounding plant early last year. The plant, which employed 130 and operated 90 million pounds of capacity, was its oldest facility and one of its most expensive to operate.
Overall, Schulman has reduced its U.S. work force by 20 percent since 2001. A $1.3 million tax benefit tied to a change in the federal Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act will help Schulman's third-quarter results, officials said.