Looking back at plastics in 2012
- Plastics Processing
European Plastics News takes a month-by-month look at some of the major stories over the past 12 months. The European industry remains in a state of flux, but as our reports over the year have shown, the industry is still battling on and strengthening its business through acquisitions and expansions
The year started with a busy month as several deals were announced in January, including expansions in emerging markets. German ThyssenKrupp Uhde and French auto giant Faurecia both announced plans to set up plants in Russia, while toy maker Lego built a new complex in Hungary. In Asia, Spain’s Gamesa opened a plant in India and Reichhold announced a new manufacturing centre in China.
In regulatory news, three plastic pipe system manufacturers were accused of price fixing in Hungary and Mega Brands dropped a lawsuit against Lego.
January was also the month when ADM announced it was ending its bioplastic venture with Metabolix.
In February Spain’s Grupo Antolin made two large announcements; the acquisition of Italy’s moulding firm CRS and a new plant in Slovakia. Other companies building plants in eastern Europe included Lifocolor and Plastiflex, while Husky Injection Molding opened a new factory in India.
Big headlines during the month included Weener Plastik’s acquisition by a US private equity firm and a new bioplastics joint venture, set up by NatureWorks and BioAmber. And Solvay exited the plastic pipe market by selling its stake in Pipelife to partner Wienerberger.
US-based Key Plastics said it wanted to focus on its core business so sold five of its European plants, while Japanese Arrk divested its subsidiary in Hungary.
The big news in March was an explosion at an Evonik plant in Germany which killed an employee and had a serious impact on the PA12 market.
In happier news, there were several acquisitions during the month, including One Equity Partners buying Linpac Allibert and Boryszew’s acquisition of German parts supplier Ymos. BASF bought B.C. Foam to increase its portfolio of wind power expertise and wine packaging manufacturer Phillip Schneider purchased Pfefferkron.
Spain’s Gamesa and the German Wiedenhammer both said they would build plants in the UK and Faurecia announced another new plant in China.
Finally, Clariant began building a new €100m research centre in Germany.
Several companies announced plans to expand in Asia in April, including DSM, which has developed a $1bn (€0.8bn) programme to plough money into the area. Focusing on China, Germany’s Albis announced a new €10m plant in the country, KraussMaffei said it would expand an existing factory and Engel and Plastisud launched a JV to make caps. BASF set up a production site in India and Kraiburg TPE increased capacity in Malaysia.
In other news, Dow closed two Styrofoam plants in Europe, Promens divested its French automotive component plants, and 3D printer makers Stratasys and Objet announced plans to merge.
Acquisitions came from Nolato, which bought Cope Allman Joycare, and SGL, which took over Portugal’s Fisipe.
Investment news hit the headlines in May when material maker Lanxess said it would be spending €75m on a new polymerisation plant in Antwerp, Belgium, with a capacity of 90,000 tpa. Another company investing in Europe was Wipak, which opened a plant in Llinars del Valle, Spain.
Another big piece of news was Faurecia’s deal to acquire the auto parts operation of Automotive Components Holdings, owned by Ford, making the France-headquartered firm North America’s largest auto interiors supply.
Also during the month, Italy’s Finproject invested in projects in India and Mexico and German plastic films producer Renolit acquired the medical films division of China-based Austar. And ECO Plastics announced a recycling JV with Coca-Cola Enterprises in the UK.
Some companies decided to contract in June to improve finances. Portola Packaging shut down its cosmetics packaging arm and ended production at facilities in the US and China, and Sweden’s Autoliv divested its subsidiary Autoliv Mekan.
Rumours also began circulating, at this point unconfirmed, that the KraussMaffei Group was for sale.
In other news, China’s Yapp opened a plant in the Czech Republic, Azelis sold its thermoplastics business to Gazechim Plastics, and auto supplier Mann + Hummel opened its fourth plant in China. Finally, Finland’s Wipak entered the stand-up pouch business by acquiring Italy’s Bordi Carlo.
There was a lot of movement in the European packaging market in July, as Elasto MŸller Kunststoffe acquired Germany-based European Plastic Sealants (EPS), Uflex started up a new plant in Poland, Rexam sold its personal care packaging division for €562m, and Mondi acquired flexible packaging group Nordenia.
Away from packaging, Clariant and the Dutch Wiefferink both built plants in Poland, and Lanxess expanded in North Carolina, the US.
Finally, Visteon ended a planned deal that would have sold the bulk of its auto interiors business to a Chinese auto supplier, and France-based Nief Plastic Group acquired German thermoplastics producer Poschmann.
The challenging economic situation forced more sell-offs in August, and Tessenderlo, the Belgian-headquartered chemicals giant, announced plans to sell off Profialis, its Continental European PVC profiles business. And Bemis said it would end production at four plants in the US, France, Mexico and Brazil.
In happier news, Italy’s Rapi expanded in the US, while French manufacturer Segepo opened a facility in Poland.
In terms of acquisitions, Helix Medical bought a stake in an Irish medical company, Ensinger bought Scotland’s Jet Engineering, and Ršchling Engineering Plastics acquired Maywo Kunststoff.
In automotive news, Faurecia this month strengthened its business with Daimler by acquiring Plastal France, a supplier of parts for Daimler’s Smart brand. Spanish auto parts maker Grupo Maier bought a 50% stake in Italy’s Cromoplastica and Indian auto parts supplier Varroc Group and France’s Plastic Omnium have ended their joint venture in India.
KraussMaffei confirmed the rumours of an acquisition, announcing a deal with Canadian investment group Onex Corporation. The deal was worth €568m.
Jokey Plastik and Boryszew announced plans to build plants in Russia, while Gerresheimer invested in operations in the Czech Republic and China.
Uponor and KWH Group formed a joint venture to combine their pipe systems businesses, which had been hit by a slowdown as a result of the recession.
October was a bad month for the plastics industry as Dow announced plans to shut 20 of its worldwide manufacturing sites and shed 2,400 jobs as part of a restructuring programme. Ford said it would shut two European assembly plants - in Belgium and the UK - and Azelis said it was selling its composites business.
US plastics and chemicals giant DuPont said it would cut its workforce by 1,500 jobs - 2% of its 75,000-strong workforce - in the next 12 to 18 months
In other news, Coca-Cola Enterprises unveiled a recycling initiative in France, Lego expanded in the Czech Republic and 3D Systems bought a Dutch prototyping firm.
There was happier news in November, as several firms flagged up plans to expand. Germany-based film manufacturer Klšckner Pentaplast is investing €39.6m in expanding in Portugal, Brazil and China, while France’s Plastic Omnium announced a new plant in India.
Baerlocher opened a new production facility in China and BASF Polyurethanes invested tens of millions of euros in increasing TPU production in Germany.
Also during the month, two Japanese companies said they were investing in Europe. Tokai Rubber Industries (TRI) is constructing a new €10.8m components plant in southern Poland, while Boshoku said it was building a plant in the Czech Republic.
Finally, Russia overturned a proposed PET beer bottle ban.
During the last month of 2012 Evonik finally completed repairs to its PA 12 feedstock plant in Germany, which had been damaged by an explosion eight months earlier.
Expansions during the month came from Nypro, which enlarged operations in Ireland; Veka, which expanded a French recycling plant; and Korea’s Hanwha, which opened a third production hall at a plant in the Czech Republic.
Swiss polymer melt specialist Maag Automatik built a new China facility and DSM opened a service centre in Hyderabad, India.
In other news, Battenfeld-Cincinnati said it had received an order for 24 extruders from the world’s largest window profile manufacturer - China-based Wuhu Conch Profiles - and Stratasys and Objet finalised their merger.
- Charlotte Eyre, EPN