After a few years of growing pains, Arkema SA is on the move in Asia. The materials producer plans to expand nylon capacity at its Changshu, China, site with the construction of a new facility.
The move comes after Arkema opened a development service center at Shanghai in January.
``We have 10 production sites in Asia,'' said Dominique Namer, Asia-Pacific regional general manager and president of Arkema (China) Investment Co. Ltd.
Asia makes up 13 percent of the company's global business.
``That's why we're here. It's too small,'' he said in an interview at Chinaplas in Shanghai.
Arkema's goal, according to Namer, is to expand the company's Asian operations to represent 20 percent of global sales by 2020.
The Paris-based company operates five production plants in China, and has 15,000 employees throughout Asia. There are continuing opportunities in China as the country's market for nylon expands, Namer said.
``China is the area where we want to grow the most,'' he said. ``We are investing in large plants and large facilities. These are world-scale plants at the top of the current technology.
``We are not here to bring old technology to China.''
The focus of the company's China strategy is in Changshu, where Arkema already has a large fluorochemicals plant. Arkema is now in the design stage for an additional polyvinylidene fluoride facility at the site, set to be completed in 2010. The site will be supplied with raw materials from the fluorochemicals plant, according to Michael Zhu, development manager for the firm's Kynar fluoropolymers.
``Changshu will become one of the biggest plants for Arkema in the world,'' Namer said. It will be the company's most complex site, he added.
To enable the expansion of its China-based operations, Arkema is planning to invest $50 million into the Chinese market annually, starting this year.
The aggressive expansion plan is a fairly new tactic at Arkema, which has spent the past few years reorganizing. As its own entity, Arkema has a mere four-year history. The company was created during the reorganization of Total SA's chemicals business in 2004. It became publicly traded in 2006. Last year, the company made its first acquisition, purchasing the specialty polymers manufacturer Coatex.
``Now we are starting to grow and make strategic acquisitions,'' Namer said.
Arkema is also in the process of installing an incinerator to burn off greenhouse-gas emissions from a polyurethane blowing-agent production plant, also located in the Changshu industrial facility.