Hong Kong — Haitian International Holdings Ltd., China's largest maker of injection molding machines, said sales rose 25.8 percent in 2017, with both exports and the domestic market showing similar gains.
The company, which reported its annual results March 22, said the United States is now its single-largest export market.
The company posted sales of 10.2 billion yuan ($1.59 billion), with gross profit up 29.2 percent to 3.6 billion yuan ($559 million), and operating profit up 31 percent to 2.37 billion yuan ($368 million).
The Ningbo, China-based company said it sold 35,768 injection molding machines globally last year, up 21.1 percent from 2016. Both the sales and number of machines were a record, it said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the firm's earnings announcement in Hong Kong, board member Helmar Franz chalked up the gains to a strong economy that boosted confidence after a year of uncertainty.
"There was accumulated demand," he said.
Domestic sales jumped 25.9 percent to 6.99 billion yuan ($1.09 billion). Exports rose by a similar amount, 25.2 percent, to 2.6 billion yuan ($407 million). Haitian's biggest foreign markets regionally remain Southeast Asia, with 31.4 percent of exports, and Europe, with 30 percent of exports.
Franz said the company made a solid showing in North America, with the United States becoming Haitian's single largest national export market last year. Exports to the United States rose 16 percent.
Franz credits rising exports to a reliance on local sales and service.
"Many companies employ all Chinese salespeople in America. They think that's better. But it's not," Franz said.
In the United States and Canada, sales and service are handled by independently owned Absolute Haitian Corp., founded in 2006 and headquartered in Worcester, Mass.
"In the past year, with 'America First,' we were the best prepared," Franz said. "Our products are being sold by an American company."
Haitian's push into North America comes as the U.S. last year became the overall leading export destination for Chinese plastics machinery. The company released figures at the event, which it said it drew from Chinese government information, that showed that exports of all plastics machinery from China to the United States grew 46.6 percent last year, to $244 million.
The U.S. surpassed Vietnam in 2017 as the largest destination for Chinese plastics machinery exports, Haitian said.
Still, the company noted that Chinese exports "face increasingly stronger pressure and obstacles in the worldwide markets" from trade protectionism.
Haitian continues to aggressively promote electrics in the small-machine market and two-platen machines in the medium-to-large machine market. Sales of its Zhafir-brand electrics climbed 27.1 percent to 1.01 billion yuan ($157 million) while sales of two-platen Jupiters rose 34.7 percent to 1.32 billion yuan ($200 million).
The company also said it is moving ahead with capital investments outside China.
This month, Haitian commenced test assembly at a 190,000-square-foot company-owned facility in Gujarat, India, which replaces a rented facility. The facility officially opens May 2 and will assemble about 50 machines per month, Franz said.
Having production in India is a key to tapping the burgeoning African market, Franz said.
"Nearly every [plastics] technical manager in Africa is an Indian national," he said.
Haitian also plans a June opening of a new 52,000-square-foot workshop in Turkey.
Within China, the company is turning over more responsibility to technical managers in individual factories.
Also, the company announced the retirement of directors Zhang Jianguo, 62, and Chen Ningning, 55. Both will be available to consult with Haitian. Two new directors were appointed: Zhafir general manager Zhang Bin, 31, and Haitian Huayuan general manager Chen Weiqun, 46. Both new appointees will continue in the present operating positions.