Asia Pacific

China: instant response

Asia Pacific: when crisis becomes an opportunity

Bekaert in Asia Pacific
Combined sales: € 814 million
Capital expenditures:
(Property, plant and equipment)
€ 81 million
Total assets: € 989 million
Employees: 8 500
Number of manufacturing sites: 20

After years of strong growth, the global economic crisis that caused substantial reduction in exports for China has led to a sudden standstill in industrial production at the turn of the year. This was reflected in empty order books, idle standing plants, machines and employees. Helped by the Chinese government’s CNY 4 000 billion fiscal stimulus package, the economy picked up at an unparalleled high pace after the Chinese New Year 2009. Chinese companies could count on financial support, and investment programs for road and transport infrastructure were laid out. The supply chain regained momentum and greater demand for tires and steel cord followed in due course. Consequently, our activities in tire reinforcement exhibited outstanding performance, increasing market share and setting new sales records in China.

China’s impressive fiscal stimulus package, with a dedicated allocation to infrastructural works, has indirectly helped boost our business in the country.

After the Chinese New Year passenger and (light) truck tire production picked up again, even exceeding 2008 levels as from the second quarter

Bekaert was able to quickly seize opportunities in the region for a number of reasons. Our geographic position, in close proximity to our customers, meant that we were the first to hear their needs. We had prepared our plants for recovery during production downtime by improving production lines, by looking into new ways to optimize the manufacturing processes, and by offering our employees extensive training in different components of Bekaert’s Operational Excellence program, such as safety, quality and maintenance. Bekaert also continued to invest in product innovation. New products were launched on a continual basis in the Chinese market. Our high-performance tire cord, for example, is a fast grower in China. All these measures allowed us to deliver a fast response to the sudden pick-up in customer demand and to capture this rebound in sales.

In April Bekaert officially opened, together with Chinese steel producer Ansteel, a brand-new production plant within the framework of our 50/50 joint venture. The plant, which produces steel cord products for tire reinforcement, is located in the uprising automotive production center of Chongqing. At the end of 2009, 245 employees were working in the plant. Some 50% of its production is sold to customers within the municipality. The plant is geared for future growth in line with market demand and will represent a total investment of € 150 million.

In April Mr Zhang Xiaogang, Chairman of Ansteel, Baron Buysse, Chairman of Bekaert and Huang Qifan, Mayor of Chongqing Municipal People's Government officially opened the new steel cord plant in Chongqing, China

To boost our production efficiency and further strengthen our position in the wire market we integrated the production activities of Jiangyin Fasten-Bekaert Optical Cable Steel Products Co, Ltd into Bekaert-Jiangyin Wire Products Co, Ltd. This merger included construction works and the installation and commissioning of machinery and production lines. It has enabled us to expand the spring wire product portfolio produced in China and to increase our capacity in the production of phosphate-coated high carbon wire.

Terminal 3 at the Beijing Capital International Airport is known for being the world’s largest airport building. The breathtaking dragon-like structure took four years to construct, covers more than a million square meters and is designed to accommodate an estimated 50 million passengers a year by 2020.

Beautiful glass ceilings make for a stunning architectural structure, but also a solar heat gain nightmare. To solve their solar heat control problems, the airport looked to Solar Gard® Sterling 20. Solar Gard® Sterling 20 window film has been successfully installed on 10 000 square meters of the structures’ glass roof. With the film blocking 99% of ultraviolet rays and total solar energy rejection up to 76%, the airport management are completely satisfied with our films effects on solar heat reduction.

The basic materials sector pulled through the worst of the downturn and has gradually found its way back to recovery. Plastics, paper, textile and mining all received their fair share of funding in China’s financial stimulus program. In industrial coatings, Bekaert boosted its sales in the Chinese market. The glass industry performed well all year long, resulting in a record-high turnover for our industrial coatings business. The commercial and residential markets in China also have new regulations now to use low-E glass, thus creating an opening in the market for our coating business. Bekaert Specialty Films enjoyed strong growth in the branded Solar Gard® and Quantum® network in China due to continued support and training of the distribution channel. Combined with a strong penetration in the architectural markets this positions Bekaert as one of the leaders on the Chinese architectural window film market.

The crisis has clearly brought about future opportunities. China has made itself less dependent on exports and is further developing its own internal market. Since our activities in China are largely aimed at the domestic market, this further increases possibilities for Bekaert.

Recognition for Bekaert’s contributions to China

Geert Roelens, Bekaert Group Executive Vice President Steelcord and Member of the Bekaert Group Executive was granted the ‘2009 State Friendship Award’ by the China State Council via the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. The State Friendship Award is the highest award in China for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress. Geert Roelens received this award due to his and Bekaert’s contributions and achievements in China, as well as the efforts made in promoting continued cooperation and friendship between China and Belgium.

India and indonesia: further reinforcing our base

In both India and Indonesia Bekaert had already started to broaden its product portfolio to prepare its business for the future and continued to do so in 2009.

Indonesia has managed to maintain an annual GDP growth of 4.5%, owing to robust domestic demand. After a slow start at the beginning of 2009, our customers were soon building up inventory again and market demand recovered. At our plant in Karawang we expanded our product portfolio with galvanized construction wire for local customers. In the second year-half we recorded increased sales for Dramix® concrete reinforcement fibers following a boost in tunnel and mining projects for the Australian market.

As for steel cord, our plant in Karawang is expanding its capacity to supply to local customers. Several highspeed freeway projects will increase the demand for truck and bus radial tires.

Bekaert Advanced Filtration moved production from Jakarta to a greenfield plant, also in the local industrial area of Karawang, to enable the plant to expand production in function of the growth potential of the polymer market in Asia which is one of the main application areas of the Bekaert’s fiber-based filtration offerings.

In 2009, India recorded GDP growth of 6.5%. Despite being hard hit by the economic downturn, the Indian economy was quick to recover, driven by domestic demand and a sound financial system. According to market forecasts, India will remain one of the world’s fastest growing economies throughout the next decades.

All businesses in India were affected by the recession during the last quarter of 2008 and the first half of 2009. In the second quarter the Indian economy began its recovery. This recovery was felt first in Bekaert’s tire cord-, wire- and building products-related markets. We made sure we were ready to ride the first wave of revival in the demand for steel cord.

Similar to other Asian markets, Bekaert continued to expand its capacity and product portfolio with more steel cord, stainless steel wire, and several wire and filtration products. In August, as part of our partnership with Mukand, we successfully commissioned our stainless steel wire production plant in Lonand. In the fourth quarter Bekaert Carding Solutions in Pune experienced a high demand.

Bekaert also took swift action in customer relations, cost control and operating efficiency. We successfully rolled out, in all departments, new initiatives in cash conservation and waste reduction. At the Ranjangaon (Pune) plant we further enhanced machine uptime in order to maximize asset utilization and reduce conversion costs. When our Bekaert Advanced Filtration plant at Ranjangaon was confronted with lower occupancy, we temporarily relocated the operators to the Bekaert Steel Cord plant on the same site. In this way, we avoided layoffs and reduced contract labor at the Bekaert Advanced Filtration plant at the same time. During the ‘Customer Orientation Week’ at Ranjangaon, we invited our customers to the plant. They met with our teams – from executives to operators – to discuss their needs and how Bekaert could fulfill them even better.

The services industry in India has experienced fast growth in recent years. As prosperity increases in the country, the automobile production and the radialization of truck tires will soon follow, creating major opportunities for our steel cord business. Our plant at Ranjangaon already increased its steel cord productive capacity by 40% to respond to the increased demand in radial tires.

In the first quarter of 2010 we put the Bekaert India Technology Center in Pune, India into service. The center supports the technological challenges and needs of our Indian customers in the tire business.

Bekaert is ready for future growth in India, which is also one of the reasons why we put the Bekaert India Technology Center (BITC) in Pune into service in the first quarter of 2010. Bekaert’s first steel cord technical center in India supports the technological challenges and needs faced by Indian tire manufacturers as India surges forward in steel reinforced radial tire usage. In anticipation of increasing tire demand over the next three years, BITC will provide – with R&D support from the Bekaert Asia Research and Development Center (Jiangyin, China) and the Bekaert Technology Center (Deerlijk, Belgium) – problem-solving and testing solutions to local Indian customers and thus capture market growth. In March 2010 the center was visited by H.R.H. Prince Philippe of Belgium.

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