Dedicated To Styrenics
Styrolution started operations, positioned for profitable growth and long-term success
On October 1st, 2011 Styrolution officially started operating as an independent company, following the approval of the relevant antitrust authorities. The new company is a 50:50 joint venture between BASF and INEOS, comprising the key styrenics activities of the two partners.
The company name, which is a combination of the words ‘styrenics' and ‘solution' implies that the world's new leading styrenics supplier with pro forma combined sales in 2010 of € 6.4 billion is determined to give its customers a competitive edge, says Styrolution's CEO Roberto Gualdoni. Dr. Michael Reubold spoke with him right after the launch of Styrolution.
CHEManager Europe: Mr. Gualdoni, what is the underlying strategy of the creation of Styrolution? Do we have to think of it as a mere pooling of resources or even a consolidation of capacities?
Roberto Gualdoni: No, neither of these reasons was a relevant factor for the formation of Styrolution. Our objective as a company is to be and remain a strong leader in our markets globally, and we are excellently positioned for profitable growth and long-term success.
We have a global footprint, we are going to be a formidable player in the fields of styrenics, we have all available technologies of relevance in the industry, we have plants working in each region, we have an experienced team, and we have low financial leverage. This is a good basis for the start going forward. This company is built to last.
Can you give us a brief overview about your product portfolio? What are your market positions in these respective areas?
Roberto Gualdoni: Styrolution is the only one of the key players dedicated entirely to styrenics. We are actually marketing styrene monomer, polystyrene, ABS - acrylonitrile butadiene styrene - and certain copolymers, most of them well-known in the market, for instance SBC - styrene-butadiene block copolymers. We also have other styrene-based copolymers like SAN, AMSAN, ASA, MABS, and certain copolymer blends like polyamide ABS, ASA polycarbonate, ABS polycarbonate.
I think all in all we have the broadest product portfolio in the industry when it comes to styrenics. Styrolution holds global number one positions in styrene monomer, polystyrene, SBC, SAN, AMSAN, ASA, MABS and copolymer blends, and a number two position in ABS. So, we are very well positioned to reap the benefits of that.
Your portfolio does not include businesses with expandable polystyrene and extruded polystyrene foam. What is the reason behind this?
Roberto Gualdoni: The EPS business with expandable polystyrene, as well as the XPS business with extruded polystyrene foam remain with BASF. This is part of a long-term strategy of our mother companies. The charm of leaving the EPS and XPs activities within BASF is that the production of these materials in the Ludwigshafen Verbund site is self-supported. This way we reduce the complexity of the whole system in terms of Styrolution, too.
From a geographical point of view almost 50 % of Styrolution's revenues come from Europe. What is your strategy to defend your leading position in Europe, while at the same grow your businesses in other regions?
Roberto Gualdoni:With our global headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, regional headquarters in Channahon, USA and Singapore and with 17 manufacturing sites across ten countries Styrolution has a global market presence. We have our "in the region for the region" approach which allows us to always be close to our customers.
In fact, we do have a very strong position in Europe, which stands for 48 % of our turnover. But we also have a very good position in the Americas, be it in the USA or in Mexico. NAFTA is well covered from the point of view of Styrolution. And I think we also have a very good starting position in Asia with almost a quarter of our turnover being made in this region today. Obviously, when it comes to our position in Europe, we are near to the customer. In terms of the other geographies I think there is a three-phase scenario: at the beginning there will be the integration of these heritage businesses.
Then we would have to go through an evaluation and value-extraction of what we have been given. And the third phase would be growth. And with the capabilities that we have we can grow in any polymer in the developing world and rather with the specialties in the developed world.
Innovation is certainly key to fulfill your customers' requirements and to add new applications for styrenics. How do you integrate the R&D activities of BASF and INEOS to get the maximum out of the two R&D cultures?
Roberto Gualdoni: We are at the moment in a period in which we have to understand each other's businesses. The idea is that after a certain time, we will have a very independent R&D, also independent in the cultural aspects and the philosophy of the R&D from both mother companies. What we are aiming at is more of process innovation in terms of commodities, I think we still have something which can be done, without excluding absolutely that there might be some tweaking on the product area for the commodities.
Whereas, when it comes to our specialty part we are much more able to go with the customer all the way through and deliver customized products. That is going to be the main point of our research going forward. Customer nearness, understanding what the needs are going forward, and understanding that having all the technology base out there we can make something better, much more than one plus one in the area of R&D.