SHANGHAI (April 19, 1:50 p.m. ET) — Kraton Performance Polymers Inc. is continuing to strengthen its presence in Asia through investment in additional resources and innovation to support the development in its fastest-growing region.
The Houston-based company announced April 18 at Chinaplas the launch of a new innovation center in Shanghai. The facility offers 32,000 square feet of space, three times larger than the previous facility, and better accommodates its technical staff, which has doubled over the past 18 months.
With such capabilities as wet chemistry, flame testing and rubber processing, the innovation center is designed to enhance Kraton's ability to serve customers in all segments of SBCs as well as Cariflex IR and IR latex.
Kraton's spending on innovation is greater than the rest of its competitors combined, said Holger R. Jung, VP of sales and marketing. Kraton's Vitality Index, measured by the percentage of sales revenue generated from innovation-based sales, reached 14 percent globally in 2011, with a future target of 20 percent. In China, the index already exceeded 20 percent and, with the new Shanghai innovation center, is expected to surpass 30 percent.
Kraton also reaffirmed that it's fully engaged in the formation of a 50/50 joint venture with Formosa Petrochemical Corp. to construct and operate a 60 million-pound hydrogenated styrenic block copolymer (HSBC) plant in Mailiao, Taiwan. The latest estimate of the startup time is as early as the first half of 2014.
Jung cited feedstock availability, infrastructure, location and logistics as well as expandability as advantages of the Mailiao site.
Once on stream, the Taiwan plant will support global demand for HSBCs and set a “new global standard for efficiency and product quality” for HSBCs, Jung said.
Kraton currently employs about 60 in China. It has offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou, and plans to add an office in Taiwan.
China has become one of Kraton's largest markets, after the U.S., Germany and Japan. Kraton's first employee in China, who joined the company in 2003, has now become one of its most successful customers, Jung said, reflecting its growth in China in the past nine years.
In Japan, the company plans to double its Cariflex latex manufacturing capacity by mid-2013. The expansion will take place in two phases, each adding 3.3 million pounds, Jung added.
Kraton employs about 920 in 18 locations around the world.