Japan/China: Strategic Growth Asahi Kasei Concluded JV in China and Announces Capacity Expansion for Microfibers

Editor: Alexander Stark

Asahi Kasei concluded a joint venture agreement with China National Bluestar a subsidiary of Chem China. Furthermore, the company announced plans to increase the capacity of its microfibre suede production in Japan.

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Asahi Kasei's headquarters in Tokyo
Asahi Kasei's headquarters in Tokyo
(Source: Asahi Kasei)

Tokyo/Japan — As announced on February 15, 2017, Asahi Kasei concluded a joint venture agreement with China National Bluestar a subsidiary of ChemChina, for the integrated production and sale of Xyron modified polyphenylene ether (mPPE) in China, including its intermediate materials 2,6-xylenol and polyphenylene ether (PPE). As antitrust clearance has been received, respective joint ventures for manufacturing and sale were established in Nantong, Jiangsu, China.

The two joint ventures will leverage Bluestar’s technology for 2,6-xylenol and PPE together with Asahi Kasei’s mPPE compounding technology and applications development capability to facilitate further expansion in the growing Chinese market.

The company's will now begin studying the construction of manufacturing facilities for 2,6-xylenol, PPE, and mPPE, and proceed with detailed evaluation of the economics of the joint business targeting a final investment decision by March 2018.

The manufacture of Xyron mPPE begins with phenol and methanol as raw materials. Phenol and methanol are used to synthesize 2,6-xylenol, which is then polymerized into PPE. The PPE is compounded with other polymers and various combinations of glass fiber, flame retardant, and other additives to form mPPE. Featuring superior heat resistance, flame retardance, dimensional stability, and mechanical properties, mPPE is used in fields ranging from office equipment, automotive components (relay blocks, electric vehicle battery modules, etc.), junction boxes for solar panels, industrial components, and electrical and electronic parts (connectors, etc.).

Expansion of Microfiber Suede in Japan

Lamous is a high-quality microfiber suede (artificial suede) material featuring a unique three-layered microstructure. Leveraging its luxurious smooth texture and flexibility in design as well as superior environmental characteristics, the company has actively expanded its Lamous business worldwide in a wide variety of applications including automotive interiors, furniture upholstery, IT accessories, apparel, and industrial materials. Sold in markets around the world,the microfibre is used in automotive interiors.

As demand growth in this field is forecast to continue, the company decided to expand capacity at its plant in Nobeoka, Japan by approx. 3 million m2 annually (current capacity is approx. 6 million m2 per year). Groundbreaking took place in the first half of 2017; start-up is scheduled for the first half of 2019.