ReBase Products Inc. is hitting the ground running in 2003, with plans to expand thermoplastic concentrate production in Quebec and to open a similar site in Louisiana by the end of the year. The projects are to create a total of 100 jobs.
Barrie, Ontario-based ReBase also plans to take itself public next month by selling shares through Innoventures International Inc. on the Canadian Venture Exchange, which is part of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Innoventures is a financial shell company based in Calgary, Alberta.
ReBase's product is a 50 percent loaded concentrate that combines calcium hydroxide with a number of resins - including polypropylene, high density polyethylene and PVC - to provide flame-retardant and antimicrobial properties. ReBase has a patented method of reclaiming calcium hydroxide from acetylene production. The calcium hydroxide is ``significantly less expensive'' than the base resin it can replace, officials said.
Based on meetings with prospective customers, ReBase officials have identified more than 10 million pounds of demand for their product in the fourth quarter of this year. Those numbers balloon to almost 170 million pounds in 2004 and almost 300 million pounds in 2005.
Initial markets for the naturally white material, marketed under the White Knight and Rx brand names, include medical products, while uses in the pipe market also are being targeted.
Most of ReBase's initial work will be in HDPE-based concentrates, Chief Executive Officer Mark Meade said in a March 19 telephone interview. Some production will be in PP-based concentrates, while PVC-based products could be available next year.
ReBase has had its share of ups and downs in its nine-year history. It first operated as a reclaim business, aiming to sell excess calcium hydroxide as a plastics additive. ReBase reclaims calcium hydroxide from carbide lime, which is a byproduct of acetylene production.
Since making the decision to focus on the concentrates market last year, ReBase has closed a facility in Houston and transferred equipment to a site in Shawinagan Falls, Quebec. The firm currently has only four employees, but hopes to expand that number to 100 by the end of the year by increasing production in Shawinagan Falls and opening the New Orleans site. Each facility is expected to employ 50, Meade said.
ReBase has posted small financial losses in each of the past two years as it basically has given its material away for testing with potential customers. Meade estimates the firm gave away material worth $1 million last year alone.
``There's a lot of interest right now in both antimicrobials and flame retardants, and our material naturally has both of those properties,'' Meade said. ``We don't want to compete with compounders - we just want to provide a broad concentrate for the general market.''
Meade said ReBase has a solid raw materials position, since 200 million tons of excess carbide lime are produced worldwide each year. The firm also is sourcing virgin calcium carbonate - which it then converts into calcium hydroxide - from a site in the Caribbean region.
ReBase currently is working with Polymer Transaction Advisors Inc., a Newbury, Ohio-based consulting firm led by plastics veteran Bill Ridenour, to find resin supply partners.
On the financial side, ReBase's deal with Innoventures is expected to generate more than $8 million through the issuing of more than 16 million shares. Meade will retain a majority stake in the firm after the public offering. ReBase has 95 institutional and individual investors, while Innoventures has 350 such backers.
Working with Innoventures ``gives [ReBase] the ability to underwrite projects and return value to our shareholders,'' Meade said.