Strong demand for its Celcon-brand acetal is leading engineering resins maker Ticona to boost capacity in Bishop, Texas, by 35 million pounds by the end of 2004.
Summit, N.J.-based Ticona, which already ranks as the world's largest acetal maker, is seeing ``ongoing demand'' for Celcon in the automotive, industrial, appliance and medical sectors, according to North American business line director Bob Engle. The firm also reports growing demand for newer Celcon grades that provide lower gloss, greater electrostatic dissipation and less wear, Engle added.
He cited fuel-system components, health-care applications and extruded parts for materials-handling applications as specific areas in which acetal use is on the rise.
When the expansion - described as ``a multimillion-dollar debottlenecking project'' - is complete, Ticona's annual acetal capacity in Bishop will be about 225 million pounds.
Elsewhere, Ticona is building an acetal plant in China - in conjunction with three Asian resin makers - that is set to open in the second quarter of 2005. The plant will be in Nantong, near Shanghai, and will have annual capacity of about 130 million pounds. Ticona's partners in the project are Polyplastics Co., Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. and Korea Engineered Plastics Co.
Ticona officials declined to provide details on its acetal growth. The firm's total global sales of all products dropped 3 percent in 2003.
Last month, Ticona parent Celanese AG of Frankfurt, Germany, announced that investors holding almost 84 percent of outstanding shares voted to accept a $3.8 billion bid for Celanese offered by Blackstone Capital Partners of New York.
A Blackstone-led group of representatives has been appointed to the firm's supervisory board. Celanese stock also will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange by midyear. Plastics-related holdings in Blackstone's $14 billion portfolio include a majority stake in Graham Packaging Co. LP of York, Pa. In late 2002, Blackstone also bought the automotive business of TRW Inc.
In 2003, Ticona's operating profit jumped to 109 million euros ($132 million), more than triple its 2002 result, even though the unit's sales were down 3 percent vs. 2002 to 675 million euros ($816 million). Officials blamed the sales decrease on unfavorable currency movements and lower selling prices.
Ticona was Celanese's second-largest segment in 2003, generating more than 16 percent of total sales.