Chinese plastic auto parts producer Minth Group Ltd., one of the country's largest makers of structural and decorative parts for passenger cars, is setting up a 178 million Baht (US$5.8 million) joint venture in Thailand to tap into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations market.
Ningbo-based Minth will take a 60 percent stake in the joint venture, with Aapico Hitech plc holding the remainder. The two firms are building a 75,000-square-foot facility for metal and plastic trim, body and roof components that will employ up to 200 in an industrial park north of Rayong city.
Aapico, based in Ayutthaya, Thailand, said the venture - Minth Aapico (Thailand) Co. Ltd. - is the first major collaboration between Thai and Chinese suppliers in Thailand's extensive carmaking sector, which produced an estimated 1.2 million passenger vehicles last year and has been called the Detroit of Southeast Asia.
Minth has been expanding aggressively, and last year acquired Dayton, Ohio-based Plastic Trim LLC, its first investment outside China.
Minth Aapico did not disclose manufacturing details, but in a Jan. 7 filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange Minth said the venture will make rolling and extrusion automobile parts. Minth told the exchange that an unidentified customer in Thailand has agreed to buy components for two models of passenger cars from Minth Aapico. The firms declined to disclose the customer.
Both companies supply Ford Motor Co., however, and in November, Aapico told Thai newspapers that it planned new plastics-related investments to support Ford's plans to make small cars in the country. Ford and Mazda have announced that their truck manufacturing joint venture in Thailand will start to make each firm's ``B'' car small passenger vehicles beginning next year.
Aapico's marketing and operations director, Joe Gou, said the Minth Aapico venture will help his firm diversify product lines and enhance technology when it opens in March 2009.
Gou said Sojitz Corp. of Tokyo, which is an investor in both Minth and Aapico, introduced the firms and has an option to buy a direct 15 percent of their new company. That would reduce Minth's ownership stake to 51 percent.
Among its industrial holdings, which include metal forging and jig operations, Aapico employs 500 at a 258,000-square-foot plastics factory in Bangsaothong, Thailand, making components for auto, electrical and household appliance makers, including Ford, Mazda, General Motors, Canon and Sharp.
Aapico also will begin construction next month on a plastic fuel-tank plant, expanding its traditional base making steel fuel tanks, Gou said. The 64,500-square-foot factory will be in the same industrial park Aapico's joint venture with Minth.