Material supplier China National Bluestar (Group) Co. Ltd., which is 20 percent owned by U.S. investment firm Blackstone Group, might be a more familiar name to American banks than to American plastic buyers. But the company had hopes that its inaugural appearance at NPE would change that.
The firm, which is part of state-owned China National Chemical Corp., has been on a modernizing push. It restructured separately run engineering plastics factories into a new business unit in February, hired two non-Chinese executives with international petrochemicals backgrounds to run the operation and is in the midst of adding capacity.
Jos Braat, who joined Beijing-based Bluestar in mid-2011 as chief commercial officer of the new engineering plastics business unit, said in an interview at the company's NPE booth that it was both its first NPE show and the first time exhibiting its new engineering plastics on its own, at any trade show.
“This is the first time we've presented these products together as one company,” Braat said. “For us, this is an important show because our reach in the North American market is less.”
Braat came to Bluestar from Pittsfield, Mass.-based SABIC, where he was global product marketing leader for crystalline and styrenic products. Bluestar also hired former Celanese executive Lanny Duvall in 2011 to be chief executive officer of the engineering plastics business unit.
The engineering polymers unit right now has about 4 billion Chinese yuan (US$635 million) in revenue, with 1,700 employees at four production sites, where it makes a wide range of materials, including compounded engineering plastics, acetal, polyphenylene ether, polybutylene terephthalate and bisphenol-A.
It opened a new, 35,000-metric-ton specialty epoxy resin plant in Nantong, China, earlier this year and is building a 60,000-metric-ton 1,4-butanediol and tetrahydrofuran plant in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, the company said.
The firm is also considering other capacity expansions including acetal, PBT and PPE.
At NPE the company was touting eco-friendly, flame retardant grades of glass-filled PBT, which already are being used by Foxconn International Holdings, the giant contract manufacturer that produces Apple iPads and other electronic products.
It also recently introduced a new additive for glass-filled PPE blends that it said has significant improvement on properties such as tensile and flexural strength. Its glass-filled PPEs are sold into automotive, consumer product and fluid-handling applications.
It also was touting POM compounds with glass and PTFE, and improvements in its low volatility POM resin.
Braat said the company has been focused on upgrading to become more efficient and competitive globally.
The investment by Blackstone, which bought 20 percent of Bluestar in 2007 for $600 million, has put pressure on Bluestar to become more efficient, but it's a work in progress, he said.
“There are still a lot of things that need to be optimized. For the long-term viability, it needs to be more internationalized.”
About 75 percent of the engineering business unit's revenues come from China, but the company wants to focus more on exports, which are growing faster than domestic Chinese sales.
The company manufactures thermoplastic, thermosets and raw materials for those industries globally, and says it is the only producer of PPE in China.