The recent acquisition of Swedish granulator supplier Rapid by Swedish investment firm Lifco may outwardly look like a mere acquisition of a profitable private-owned company but in fact there is to it than meets the eye.
Lifco is a public listed company with turnover exceeding EUR1 billion. It owns more than 100 companies that are leaders in their field, with its dental business accounting for around half of turnover.
|Eldan and Rapid CEO Tony Reftman: Cable recycling
makes for a solid business proposition even in
high-cost operating environments.
Among Lifco's portfolio of companies is Eldan Recycling, a manufacturer of recycling systems for municipal waste, electronic waste, appliances, cables, and tires. "There are synergies to be gained through distribution and [complimentary] portfolios," says Toni Reftman, CEO of both Eldan Recycling and Rapid. "Eldan's smallest machines happens to be about as big as Rapid's largest. Rapid can thus use products from the Eldan portfolio for in-house recycling while Eldan could employ Rapid products for some post-consumer applications."
Eldan's recycling systems are highly customized products, incorporating size reduction and separation (via density, magnetic or optical means). "Eldan customizes recycling lines whereas Rapid customizes granulators," says Reftman. "There is potential to apply Rapid granulators to our systems and vice versa."
Eldan is currently experiencing strong demand growth for cable recycling systems. "In the past, countries in the EU, the US and Australia typically exported scrap cable to China for recycling," says Reftman. Our biggest customer there processes 2000-3000 tonnes of cable every week." Now, according to Reftman, these countries that have neglected recycling locally have lost a lot of copper and aluminum resources. "Japan realized early on and stopped exporting cable scrap. Of late, we are selling more and more cable recycling lines to the lines of Switzerland, Austria and Germany."
With Chinese labor costs rising, it also makes sense to use highly automated recycling lines in European countries with high labor costs. "A 500 tonnes/week line requires just two operators. Other factors become more important, such as energy consumption and uptime," notes Reftman. "For China, that's bad news but for Europe, and our company, it's good news. It's just as easy to recycle at the source."
Reftman cites the case of a recent installation in Norway. "You wouldn't think it conceivable several years back but now, even Norway is realizing that cable scrap is a resource, in effect an urban mine."
In the near future, Reftman sees a new market emerging for recycling lines. "The lifetime of [fiber-reinforced plastic] wind turbine blades is typically 10 years and we see a lot of business coming from here," he explains.