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Upstream integration strategy: Novamont acquires Mater-Bi feedstock plant

Novamont, the Novara, Italy-based producer of the Mater-Bi family of bioplastics, would appear to be having a busy first quarter.

Novamont, the Novara, Italy-based producer of the Mater-Bi family of bioplastics, would appear to be having a busy first quarter. Not only has the company this year already introduced the first mulching Mater-Bi film for strawberries and its Mater-Bi material was selected for the coating of the new eco-packaging for frozen organic wild berries sold under the COOP brand in Sweden, the company just recently also announced an important deal with Unicoop Firenze, the first large retailer in Italy to replace shopping bags made from traditional plastic with those made from Mater-Bi. Following various successful pilots at various points of sale, Unicoop has now decided that henceforth only bioplastic bags and gloves are to be used at the fruit and vegetable sections at its 103 points of sale in Florence and throughout Tuscany.

Hard on the heels of that news now comes the announcement that Novamont has acquired a 78% majority share in Mater-Biopolymer from Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G), an Italian multinational operating in the chemicals sector Financial details were not provided, with Novamont merely saying that the deal includes an option to purchase the remaining share capital by the end of 2016. The acquisition has been fully approved by Mater-Biopolymer's labor union representatives.

Under the agreement, the Mater-Bioploymer plant in Patrica, which employs 83 workers, will produce exclusively for Novamont and M&G. One line will produce PET for M&G and another will be dedicated to the production of Origo-Bi, a range of polyesters derived from partially or wholly renewably-sourced monomers that are used to improve the technical, economic and environmental characteristics of Novamont's Mater-Bi biodegradable and compostable bioplastics.

According to Novamont, the plant had become too small for the economies of scale of M&G's PET production, but was an ideal size for Novamont. After the necessary technological conversion, including the second production line, the production capacity will reach 100,000 metric tons per year, further stimulating upstream integration of the Novamont production chain.

Novamont says the new plant will give a new impetus to the site, creating jobs and competitive barriers and enhancing existing research skills in the areas of materials, process engineering and innovation in general. "At such a challenging time for our country, the Bioeconomy sector and chemicals from renewable sources in particular are of proven strategic importance for economic recovery and creating value for the whole country," said Catia Bastioli, CEO of Novamont.

Italy has been extremely hard hit by the prolonged economic recession in the Eurozone is currently vying with France for the title of "The sick man in Europe." While technically out of recession, the country's economy must contend with relentless political turmoil, high levels of taxation and public debt, and a rigid labor market. The high level of, especially political, uncertainty is thought to be holding back consumption and investments.

Nonetheless, Novamont is proving it is possible to create an economic and environmental model capable of re-industrializing the Patrica region, reusing skills and facilities and recreating jobs, focused on the efficient use of resources and the integration of research, agriculture and industry. 

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