Ningbo Haitian Group Co. Ltd., China's largest injection molding press maker, plans to expand its operations in Europe and North America, according to Helmar Franz, executive vice president and a member of the board of directors.
More sales in the U.S. and Europe are not necessarily the target for Haitian, but defending its leading market position in China, and challenging Japan to be the No. 1 injection molding machine supplier in Asia, are, Franz said.
In an interview with Plastics News at Haitian's Ningbo headquarters, Franz also said the company hopes to announce a plan for restructuring its U.S. operations during NPE in June. The company recently closed a sales office in Itasca, Ill., according to sources. Franz did not comment directly on that change, but emphasized that Haitian is preparing to announce changes in North America.
``One thing is clear: We are going to make it bigger and better,'' he said. Franz said North America and Europe are very important to the company for tapping into customer needs and technology trends.
He said the U.S. restructuring is likely to be similar to one the company began in Europe in early May.
A group of investors, including Franz and other senior managers from Haitian, set up a company in SchwÃ¤bisch Gmund, Germany, called Zhafir Plastics Machinery GmbH.
Zhafir, a separate company from Haitian, will take a page out of the Toyota/Lexus playbook, with Zhafir-branded machines set ``to establish a premium brand in the market,'' Franz said.
He expects a research and development center to open by the end of 2006 in Germany for the premium brand. Zhafir machines will be assembled in Germany, mainly for the Asian market. Haitian will have the opportunity to supply components to Zhafir, but so will other components suppliers.
``We wanted to upgrade Haitian, and one way to do that was to make the company separate and give Haitian a chance to supply,'' Franz said.
Franz said Haitian can leverage its high production rate of 14,000 machines per year to provide low-cost, high-quality components to Zhafir.
The challenge for Haitian in the Chinese and Asian markets is to keep up with customers' changing needs.
``The market is changing, the customers are changing, so they need more-sophisticated machines,'' Franz said.
Apart from raising quality, Franz said Haitian wants to defend its China market share by continuing to offer a mass-market brand under the Haitian nameplate.
Franz said that Haitian's main sales market will remain China and Asia, which gives the company the big orders required to make manufacturing efficient.
Meanwhile, Franz said Haitian's plan to file an initial public offering in Hong Kong, possibly by late this year, is ``still under evaluation'' and ``nothing has been decided yet.''