PA producer Ascend to build HMD Plant in China

14.01.2022 - US polyamide specialist Ascend Performance Materials has made a final decision to build a new production facility for hexamethylene diamine (HMD) and specialty chemicals in Lianyungang, China’s Xuwei New Area Park. Neither cost nor capacity have been disclosed.

In November 2020, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with park management for the plant that will supply the Asian regional market and also enhance the company’s global operations. It will be its first for the chemical intermediate outside the US.

Owned by private equity group SK Capital, Ascend currently produces HMD and precursor adiponitrile (ADN) solely at its base at Decatur, Alabama, as part of its back-integrated set-up. The company additionally makes PA starting materials acrylonitrile and adipic acid, along with being also a major compounder.

"Our growth is driven by increasing market demand and growing collaboration with our customers globally," said CEO Phil McDivitt. "The materials we produce are helping drive technological transformations across markets, from e-mobility to automation. Our new HMD plant positions us to continue supporting these transformations well into the future."

For Ascend, China and Asia remain high-growth markets, said Kevin Wu, the company’s senior vice president and managing director for Asia. "This new plant is a symbol of our growth in the region and the partnerships we have developed.”

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Ascend employs some 2,600 people and operates six manufacturing plants and a technology center in the US, in addition to sales and technology offices worldwide. In recent years, the company has steadily expanded through acquisitions, Europe as well as in China, for the most part on the compounding side.

Last month, the Texas player announced plans to acquire Mexican compounder Color Mexicana, currently a joint venture between Japanese companies Dainichiseika Color & Chemicals and Mitsubishi. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

IPO may be on the horizon

With its portfolio strengthened, SK Capital may seek a stock market listing for Ascend, the Bloomberg news agency said in December, citing sources familiar with the matter. The New York investor, which bought the Solutia spinoff in 2009 for about $54 million, is said to be holding talks with advisers about an initial public offering in the first half of 2022 that could value Ascend at around $5 billion.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist