Düsseldorf, Germany — U.S. materials firm Celanese Corp. made a big splash just before the start of K 2016, acquiring Italian compounder So.F.Ter Group for an undisclosed price.
So.F.Ter, based in Forli, makes a wide range of compounds based on engineering resins and thermoplastic elastomers for multiple markets. The acquisition will nearly double the number of Celanese global engineered materials product platforms.
In an Oct. 24 interview at K 2016, Celanese executive Todd Elliott said that So.F.Ter has “superb facilities” in Italy and that its plants in Tennessee and Mexico are both relatively new. So.F.Ter's total global compounding capacity is more than 300 million pounds.
“We have a lot to work with,” added Elliott, who serves as global sales vice president and general manager at Celanese. “Nylon will be a nice addition to our full product line, and adding a line of TPEs will give us opportunities in footwear, appliance, construction and some commercial applications like soft-touch.”
So.F.Ter's two main product families of polypropylene and nylon traditionally go into automotive, appliance and construction, according to Elliott. Those materials have some similar customers in those markets, he added.
Elliott also said that the addition of So.F.Ter will extend the range of Celanese's Celstran-brand long-fiber reinforced thermoplastic resins. Celanese compounds eventually could be made at So.F.Ter's Tennessee plant as well, he said.
So.F.Ter Chairman Italo Carfagnini said in the release that joining Celanese “is a natural continuation of the So.F.Ter Group success story of growth, customer innovation and application expertise.” The firm was founded in 1980 and now employs 550 at eight global plants, operating 55 production lines.
In 2014, So.F.Ter opened its first U.S. plant in Lebanon, Tenn. That 100,000-square-foot site employs 50 and runs four lines with total annual production capacity of 50 million pounds. The plant makes compounds based on PP, nylon, polyesters and TPEs, primarily for the U.S. automotive market.
For Dallas-based Celanese, the deal represents a further diversification of its efforts in plastic materials. The firm ranks as the world's largest acetal maker and recently expanded its product offerings in nylon compounds and polyetheretherketone resins.
The So.F.Ter deal is the first for Celanese since 2014 when it acquired most of the assets of U.S. conductive polymers maker Cool Polymers Inc. for an undisclosed price.
“This is the next step in the evolution of Celanese to further extend our global leadership position in the engineered materials market,” Celanese executive Scott Sutton said in a news release. Sutton is an executive vice president of the firm and president of its Materials Solutions unit.
He described So.F.Ter Group as “a leader in the design, development and production of [engineering thermoplastics] and TPEs with a fast and flexible customer-oriented business model that will integrate well within the Materials Solutions core of Celanese.” The deal extends Celanese's production of those products into Italy, Mexico, Brazil and the United States, Sutton added.
New materials for Celanese at K 2016 included high-flow Celstran grades that Elliott said can offer 20 percent weight reduction in applications such as auto instrument panel consoles. A new piano-black grade of nylon also is aimed at the auto market, but also can be used in consumer applications such as coffee machines, he added.
Celanese employs 7,500 worldwide and posted sales of around $5.7 billion in 2015. Sales in its Materials Solutions unit — including acetal, polyphenylene sulfide and other specialty resins — contributed almost 40 percent of the firm's total sales before eliminations last year.