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e-Weekly News Briefs August 27-31, 2007


Graham Partners’ HB&G Building Products acquires Flex Trim

HB&G Building Products, a portfolio company of Graham Partners, has acquired Flex Trim Inc., of Fontana, CA. Graham Partners is a private equity firm focused on investing in mid-sized manufacturing companies. HB&G is a manufacturer of specialty millwork offering a broad line of columns. Flex Trim is a flexible architectural trim-molding manufacturer and one of the pioneers of flexible molding products. Flex Trim offers a method of trim molding for round and arch windows, round columns, curved wall bases, curved staircase moldings, and curved-wall crown moldings. Founded in 1986, the company manufactures two brands of flexible molding, Flex Trip and ZzzzFlex. The acquisition of Flex Trim will further improve HB&G’s current offerings and expand its new product development, said Kent Hendricks, CEO of HB&G, in a prepared statement.


Blowmolding the lone bright spot in SPI report…

Blowmolding machinery sales in the second quarter at U.S. manufacturers continued an upward trend, reaching 25 units, which is up eight from the year-ago quarter and two above the first quarter. Those figures according to the Society of the Plastics Industry’s (SPI; Washington, DC) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES), which publishes a quarterly report of plastics equipment suppliers’ U.S. business. CES found that for the year, blowmolding machine sales are up 20% compared to the first half of 2006.
In total, U.S. manufacturers and importers of primary plastics machinery and equipment shipped $225 million worth of primary machinery, which excludes components and auxiliary equipment. That figure is down 9% from the year-ago quarter’s $247 million, but up 3% from the $219 million posted in the first quarter.
Economist Bill Wood, who analyzes the CES report, was struck that across the board, U.S. investment in industrial equipment showed a significant jump in the second quarter after declining for three quarters. Whether the global credit crunch that has roiled international markets and pinched investment funds dampens capital spending on items like machinery is yet to be seen, but Wood expects the slow uptrend in overall equipment spending to carry through the rest of 2007 and into 2008, with 2007 up 2% compared to 2006 in total investment for new industrial equipment.
The CES report also found that extrusion machinery shipments were down 6% in the second quarter over 2006, with one less unit delivered compared to the first quarter. Injection molding machines continued a downward slide compared to 2006, falling 12% in Q2 2007, but they were up from the first quarter by 8%. Plastic components were also down, falling 15% compared to 2006, but up 1% from the first quarter. By end market, CES reported strength in medical, aerospace, computers, and packaging, with overall capacity utilization rates up in the second quarter along with total plastics output.


…while the packaging sector as a whole rides five straight years of growth

U.S. packaging machinery shipments hit $6.110 billion in 2006, up 5% from the $5.765 billion shipped in 2007, and representing continuous growth going back to 2001. According to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturer Institute’s (PMMI; Arlington, VA) 2007 Shipments and Outlook Study, fully 16 of 17 categories that PMMI tracks were up in 2006, with wrapping (18.6%) and capping, overcapping, lidding, and sealing (11.2%) growing by double digits. The lone negative was converting machinery, which shrunk slightly by 0.6%.
Packaging machinery exports hit $1.012 billion, up .5%, with U.S. domestic demand, including imports, up 8.4% to $6.637 billion. Of that figure, imports were up 12.6% to $1.539 billion. From 2004 to 2006, U.S. demand for packaging equipment has grown by 9.8%, 7.6%, and 8.4%.
The PMMI pointed to a series of growth factors in 2006, including a focus on packaging cost reduction to save on labor and raw materials, as well as a need for flexible packaging machinery that is nimble enough to handle short product runs and interest in turnkey packaging cells.
PMMI does expect growth to slow to an average annual rate of 3.1%, beginning in 2007, as the total sales expand from $6.110 billion to $6.689 billion by 2009. This year is expected to be flat, with growth of only 0.5%. That said, PMMI expects that overseas growth in emerging nations like China, Brazil, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe will remain strong.


Crown buys into Gienkee plastics center in Shanghai

Underwater pelletizing system supplier, Crown Machine Division Inc. (Addison, IL) has opened a new sales office in Shanghai. Crown, which is a business unit of CDL Technology Inc., will call the branch Crown China Ltd. The business will aim to exploit overall plastics growth in China, using its patented technology to focus on hard-to-process materials like thermoplastic elastomers, thermoplastic polyurethane, and rigid polyvinyl chloride.
In addition, Crown foresees potential partners and joint ventures with Chinese extrusion companies interested in entering the North American market. The office will be part of the Gienkee Plas Center, which serves as a mini-mall of sorts for plastics suppliers, with tenants including Demag Plastics Group, EAS, Haitian, Spirex, Matsui, Manner, Avalon, Frigel, Wittmann, and Star.


Names in the News

Günter Bachmann has been appointed CEO of the Coperion Group (Stuttgart, Germany), which includes brands Werner & Pfleiderer, Waeschle, and Keya, makers of equipment in compounding extruders, melt pumps, material handling systems, and storage silos. Bachmann has been a member of the company’s management board for the last three years and was both chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the group.
D-M-E Company (Madison Heights, MI) announced the appointment of Gary Zack as the new Hot Runner Sales Specialist focusing on the medical and new-domestic automotive markets. Zack bring a diverse background in plastics application, sales, and program management. Most recently he worked at Incoe Corp., helping commercialize new hot runner technology.
Tomark Industries Inc. (Wilmington, Del.) hired David Santoleri as the company’s new-business development manager. Santoleri comes to Tomark from Advanced Polymer Alloys, which he founded in 1997 after purchasing the Alcryn MPR product line from DuPont. APA was sold earlier this year to Ferro Corp. Prior to APA, Santoleri worked 17 years at DuPont where he held positions in R&D, technical support, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and business management. Tomark Industries specializes in products for the photovoltaic energy and commercial aircraft-interiors markets. Founded in 1990, the company has offices in Wilmington and Phoenix.


Briefs

More than 3600 sq m of rigid polyurethane foam from plastics supplier Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) has been used to insulate ceilings, walls, and floors of the historic Wen Yuan Lou building at Tongji University (Shanghai, China). This is China’s first Bauhaus-style building. In related news, the supplier has acquired Czech polyurethane systems house Brahe a.s. in the Czech Republic from T.P. Holding (Prague), and plans to integrate it into the BaySystems network under the name BaySystems Central Europe. Financial details of the transaction have not been released. Closing is expected in the fourth quarter of 2007. “This acquisition is part of our response to the increasing importance of growth markets in central and eastern Europe,” explains Peter Vanacker, head of the polyurethanes business unit at Bayer MaterialScience.
COBRAE, the composite bridge alliance Europe (Leusden, Netherlands) is organizing a composite bridge decks excursion to Korea from October 3-7, including the largest composite bridge deck project in the world. Five bridges will be inspected in four days. More information regarding the tour can be obtained at: www.cobrae.org.
Schenck Process (Darmstadt, Germany), maker of feeding, screening, and automation technology, has been sold by HgCapital, a private-equity investor (which owned the company for the last two years) to another European investment group, Industri Kapital. The transaction is subject to merger control approvals and neither company divulged the selling sum. Schenck in 2004 acquired Stock Equipment Co. (Chagrin Falls, OH), a manufacturer of bulk material handling systems.
Water packaging specialist, Capsnap Europe (Kremsmünster, Austria) has created a new division offering consulting to water-bottling operations. Capsnap Consultancy aims at increasing machine efficiency as well as saving cleaning agents and production waste for its customers, says Günter Ausserwöger, company general manager.
Specialty chemicals and flame retardants producer Albemarle (Richmond, VA) has filed a patent-infringement suit against Isochem Kautscuk, known as Isochem, (Frankfurt, Germany) in the district court at Düsseldorf, Germany. Albemarle contends that Isochem imported and offered for sale into Germany flame-retardant products that were produced using Albemarle’s patented process.
In order to drive demand for its Baytubes carbon nanotubes functional fillers, Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) will work with Bayreuth, Germany-based FutureCarbon. This company will use Baytubes and graphite materials to manufacture aqueous nano dispersions using its own patent-pending dispersion process. “FutureCarbon is an innovative and flexible partner that will open up a very large and attractive market for high-tech nano dispersons,” says Martin Schmid, head of Bayer’s carbon nanotube business. He sees good opportunities for Baytubes as functional additives for thermoplastics, rubber, polyols for polyurethanes, and in the production of catalysts.


Global Plastics Bulletin Board

Mi Casa es su Casa: Milacron open house in Mexico
Milacron’s dedicated Mexican remanufacturing facility in Queretaro, Mexico will hold its annual Technology Open House on Sept. 13-14 from 12:00 to 10:00 pm. The schedule includes technology presentations, facility tours of the two-year-old site, and opportunities to discuss technical molding issues with Milacron service engineers and process technicians. On site, injection molding machines in various stages of remanufacture will be present, including the retrofit of new Mosaic controls, among other upgrades. In addition to such rebuilds, the Mexican site also purchases used machinery and takes trade-ins of older presses for new machines. Scheduled in synch with Mexican independence celebrations, the open house will also offer food, refreshments, and music. The manufacturer says that, based upon prior events at the facility, attendance is expected to be high so early reservations are welcome. For more information, contact Deborah Martinez at T: +1-442-257-3030 or 1-800-715-2724.
Demag Plastics Group is planning an open house at its new Ningbo machine-manufacturing site with guests set to arrive Oct. 15 and tour the facility on Oct. 16. In addition to a tour, the event will feature presentations on Demag and lunch. For more information, contact Demag Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd. at +86-574-8618 1557.


Weekly futures activity from the LME

LME Plastics Evaluated Prices (US$ per tonne) for August 20-24

Key:
PP Global (global polypropylene); PA Asia (Asia polypropylene); PE Europe (Europe polypropylene); PN NA (North America polypropylene); LL Global (global linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)); LA Asia (Asia LLDPE); LE Europe (Europe LLDPE); LN NA (North America LLDPE)
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