Rhodia Polyamide Co. Ltd. is looking at building an adiponitrile plant in Asia to strengthen its raw materials capacity for nylon resins, part of what the company said is a focus on investments in engineering plastics and Asia.
The March 14 announcement came as Rhodia broke ground on a polyamide polymerization plant in Onsan, South Korea, with 106 million pounds of capacity. It is expected to open by year's end.
``The Asian market is really for us a business focus,'' said Rhodia Polyamide President Laurent Schmitt. ``It's our first priority for growth.''
Asia grew from 16 percent of Rhodia's polyamide sales in 2005 to 25 percent in 2006, driven by automotive, electronics and consumer and industrial goods. Sales rose about 55 percent in Asia between 2003 and 2005, he said.
Schmitt declined to disclose details of the review of whether to build an ADN plant, but Rhodia announced in September that it was making a related investment for a 132 million-pound-per-year plant to make hexamethylene diamine in China, another raw material used in making polyamide.
``It's very consistent with our strategy to grow in Asia, to further develop upstream for the polyamide chain in this region, like we did in the past in South America and in Europe,'' he said.
The Courbevoie, France-based company, which is the world's second-largest maker of polyamide 6/6 and the third-largest maker of engineering plastics polyamides, said it expects the polyamide market to grow 12 percent a year in Asia, about five times worldwide growth. And it anticipates its own growth in polyamides in Asia to exceed the market's growth, Schmitt said.
Rhodia opened a nylon compounding plant in Shanghai last year, and Schmitt said he expects parent Rhodia SA's recent financial turnaround to fuel additional investment. Rhodia reported its first yearly profit since 2000 earlier this month, after completing a restructuring program.
``The group has really recovered its profitability,'' he said. ``This gives us more freedom ... to decide where we want to grow and to launch new projects.''