Mexico City — Chinese injection press maker Haitian International Holdings Ltd. is setting up two additional tech centers in Mexico this year, as it expects that a pause in investment in the country will lift now that the country's presidential election is behind it.
The company will open centers in Monterrey and Juárez this year, which will give it six in Mexico, said José Barroso, commercial director of the company's Haitian Huayuan Mexico Machinery S de RL de CV subsidiary.
At Plastimagen, the company was showing two machines, a Zhafir all-electric model and one of the company's new Jenius series hybrid electric, two-platen servo machines, as it said it sees more demand for all-electrics.
Barroso said the trend in Mexico for more all-electric machines mirrors that globally for Haitian, which reported that worldwide sales of its Zhafir all-electric series rose 50 percent last year, to 1.5 billion Chinese yuan ($224 million).
By contrast, its workhorse hydraulic Mars model saw sales drop 2.8 percent to 6.9 billion yuan ($1.02 billion) globally.
Barroso said all electrics are gaining in popularity with Mexican customers because of their speed, precision and quieter operation.
The Ningbo, China-based company has seen relatively flat sales the last two years in Mexico, Barroso said, as the country has dealt with uncertainties from increased trade tension with the United States and its presidential election in mid-2018.
Sales in 2018 in Mexico were about $32 million, down from about $35 million in 2016 and 2017, and the number of machines Haitian sold held steady at around 400, he said.
"We've had a little bit of empty space because people don't like to invest right away because of the change of the government [in Mexico]," he said. "These NAFTA things also stop our market a little bit."
He said smaller and midsize Mexican injection molding firms in particular were more cautious, but he said he senses a pickup.
"They are waking up and now we are starting to have good sales," he said.
Barros said Haitian estimates it has about 30 percent of Mexico's market for injection molding machinery, giving it the largest market share.
Globally, Mexico is a small part of Haitian's sales. The company reported in March that 2018 sales worldwide rose 6.5 percent to $10.8 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), but higher raw material prices pushed operating profit down 4.4 percent to $1.9 billion yuan ($283 million).
It said that export sales — outside China — rose 9.4 percent to 3.2 billion yuan ($477 million), but it noted that sales to the United States were down as the U.S. government slapped 25 percent tariffs on Chinese-made molding machines.
Globally, the company struck a note of caution in its 2018 financial report.
"We remain cautious on the economic prospects of China and the world in 2019," the company said.