Sabic Innovative Plastics LP, formerly known as GE Plastics, expects its sales in Latin America to grow 10 percent annually during the next three years, the company's marketing director for the region said April 9.
Latin America accounts for about 20 percent of Sabic IP's annual sales in the Americas, according to Edson Simielli.
Sabic IP's annual global sales of resin, sheet and special films total roughly $7 billion, he added. Simielli declined to reveal specific sales figures for the Americas.
Interviewed at the Plastimagen trade show, held April 8-11 in Mexico City, Simielli, a chemical engineer, said Mexico is the company's largest market in Latin America in terms of sales, followed by Brazil and Argentina.
However, he expressed concern about the possibility of the Mexican economy being hurt by the economic downturn in the U.S., ``because Mexico depends a great deal on exports to the United States.''
For that reason, he added, Sabic IP also sees potential in developing the local, nonexport market in Mexico, where the company has two plants - one of them a resins operation in Tampico, and the other a compounding plant in San Luis Potosí.
``Mexico depends a lot on exports to the United States, but some companies realize they need to develop products for the local market,'' he said.
For example, ``one customer is making water-meter housings using plastic rather than copper.''
Other customers include local appliance manufacturers Mabe SA de CV and Refrigeracón Ojeda SA de CV; the latter is using Sabic's Lexan polycarbonate film to prevent misting on the glass doors of its product-display refrigerators.
Also in Mexico, Sabic has introduced its Visualfx resin for 5-gallon bottles of purified drinking water. Paris-based Groupe Danone's Bonafont unit is retailing them in shades of pink and other colors.
Sabic, based in Pittsfield, Mass., has more than 400 customers in Mexico and Central America, with Costa Rica becoming an increasingly important player, according to Simielli, a 23-year GE Plastics veteran.
``We had a good first quarter in Mexico and met our sales goals,'' he said. ``We are investing a lot of money on new industries that are replacing metal with plastics.''
He estimated that 35 percent of the firm's sales in Latin America are in automotive applications.
Sabic IP's parent company is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Saudi Basic Industries Corp., a major commodity plastics and petrochemicals manufacturer.