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Andy Postlethwaite, Senior Vice President, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, and Chairman & Director on the Board of Directors, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd.
Andy Postlethwaite, Senior Vice President, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, and Chairman & Director on the Board of Directors, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd.
Photo: 12

Chairman of the Adsale Group, Stanley Chu, talked with two exhibitors of CHINAPLAS to find out more about the global companies’ unique business strategies, especially that for the increasingly competitive Asian region.

Stanley Chu (SC) is the founder and Chairman of the Adsale Group, which organizes CHINAPLAS, and the Honorary Life President of Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association (HKECIA). He has been a member of the Working Group on Convention and Exhibition Industries and Tourism under the Economic Development Commission of the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Chair of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) Asia Pacific Chapter (2011-2017). To acknowledge his dedication and contribution to Hong Kong's exhibition industry throughout many years, HKECIA presented Mr Chu the “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2017.

Andy Postlethwaite (AP) is Senior Vice President, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, and Chairman & Director on the Board of Directors, BASF South East Asia Pte Ltd. He studied MBA at the University of New England in Australia and joined BASF New Zealand Ltd as a marketing trainee in 1986. Throughout his career with the company since then, he has worked in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore, where he is now based.

SC: How do you evaluate BASF’s Performance Materials business in Asia Pacific region in 2018?

AP: Asia Pacific is a key market for BASF’s Performance Materials division. While we faced challenging raw material and macro-economic conditions in 2018, we did outperform in products such as Ultraform® polyoxymethylene (POM).

Last year we inaugurated a 50:50 joint venture with Kolon Plastics to produce POM standard & specialty products for the global market. The joint venture enables us to serve the growing POM market, particularly in Asia and strengthen our ability to support our customers’ needs with high-performing, innovative specialties.

Our focus continues to be on close collaboration with customers and fuelling our innovation pipeline with solutions for market needs. Our strong capabilities in R&D provide the basis for innovative products and applications. We look for important unmet needs in the market and develop solutions for that, and accelerate innovation by recognizing and fulfilling customers’ needs, in tandem with regulatory changes.

SC: Does the trade tension between the US and China affect BASF’s business? How does BASF cope with the impact, if any?

AP: As an international company with integrated global value chains, minimizing trade barriers and tariffs are essential to BASF operations. The company benefits - as do customers - from free trade as any duty represents an indirect tax. We are therefore concerned about the US measures and announcements, and the counter-measures of several of US trading partners, to impose import tariffs on a wide range of products that could affect the chemical industry and its numerous customer industries.

We are still analyzing the potential consequences of such measures on our business. BASF is deeply convinced of the value of open markets and a rules-based global order. We hope governments will, in the end, resolve trade disagreements through sustained multilateral dialogue and in respect of WTO rules.

SC: Looking ahead, what would be the biggest challenges or obstacles faced by Performance Materials in pursuing growth? How would the company overcome them?

AP: The macro-economic situation remains unpredictable. We continue to stay focused on our strategy and invested in our future. For instance, we recently launched the Creation Center in Asia Pacific, to enhance and bring the interaction with our customers to a new level. We will also speed up and boost our innovation power and penetrate new markets with the launch of our New Market & Incubation unit.

China remains one of the key markets for certain segments, such as electric vehicles. However, we see a slowdown in China. We will continue to innovate and collaborate with partners to grow the market and address market need.

How do you think the plastics industry in China will evolve in the next 5-10 years? And how will CHINAPLAS evolve?

SC: How China’s plastics industry will change in the next 5-10 years will depend on different factors, such as government policies, Chinese and global economic situations, the development and trends in the global plastics industry.

China will carry on with its industrial transformation in the coming years and gradually eliminate low-end manufacturing as it turns to high-end production, which stresses the importance of technological innovation. Plastics will be applied in an even wider spectrum of industries, especially those requiring high performance in materials, e.g. electric vehicles, airplanes and railways, building and city infrastructural development, medical equipment and pharmaceutical packaging, electronic products with AI technology, sports and leisure, etc. Therefore, China has high demand for high-end machinery and technology in the next decade.

With the increasing labor cost in China, integrated automation technology will be in high demand. Deeper application of Industry 4.0 and the production of customized products in small batches at lower costs and faster speed will be more common in near future.

China has also stopped the import of plastics waste since the beginning of 2018. With increasing global concern on the plastics pollution problem, the plastics industry in China as well as the world will see fast changes related to plastics recycling.

Despite the slowed GDP growth in China in recent years, the Chinese government has laid strategic plans on future development of the country, e.g. the Greater Bay Area Plan transforming Hong Kong, Macau and nine provinces in South China into the world’s innovation and development powerhouse; the Belt and Road Initiative promoting trade between China and emerging countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Chinese enterprises will invest more in R&D and welcome more collaboration with overseas suppliers in the next decade. China-made technology is not just attractive in pricing but will continue to progress in terms of scope and technology.

CHINAPLAS, which is now serving mainly China and the Asian markets, will increase its focus on innovative technology and their applications. Sectorial promotion will further penetrate into different plastics application sectors with high development potential, e.g. medical, EV, AI products.

In response to market development, the scale of CHINAPLAS may exceed K Fair within 10 years. There will be more contribution by CHINAPLAS to the global plastics industry. The number of international visitors is expected to largely increase in near future. The growth will be more prominent from Asian countries and emerging countries in the world.

For BASF’s Performance Materials, which countries/regions in Asia present a good prospect apart from China? Will you consider investing more in these places?

AP: Asia Pacific as a whole is important for us. Markets with historically strong demand in Asia are Japan and Korea. Recently, we see significant growth in ASEAN and South Asia as well. 

From 2014 till today, we’ve acquired businesses to strengthen our core competencies, expand our product offerings and to seek new innovations. These efforts will drive the future growth of our company. For instance, we acquired the TPU adhesives business from TWSS, Taiwan; and entered into a joint venture with Kolon Plastics for the production of PM in Korea.

In Dahej, India, we expanded its manufacturing capacity of Cellasto® with a new production line and supplemented Cellasto’s testing equipment. This was for faster response and local expertise, for the benefit of our customers.

Last year BASF started up a new production line for its high-temperature resistant thermoplastic Ultrason® (polyarylsulfone) at its site in Yeosu, Korea. In 2016, BASF expanded its polyurethanes system house in Bangpoo, Thailand, to meet growing regional demand, in particular from the transportation and footwear segments.

SC: Which application areas will be the rising stars for Performance Materials in the coming few years and the reasons for their fast growth?

AP: The plastics market has shown strong growth over the past years - serving the increasing demand of the electric vehicle, robotics, healthcare and consumer electronics segments in particular.

Several major trends drive the industries that we serve. For example, tougher regulations and the changing lifestyle and personalization of consumer goods that focuses on more sustainability. A number of products and applications that we launched in the last couple of years are well in line with these trends. For example, our bio-based PU foam systems with Elastoflex® E contribute to lightweighting. Ultradur® Barrier has excellent barrier properties against moisture and oxygen while containing the aromas.

Another key area for usage of plastics is in the building & construction industry due to rising population and rapidly growing infrastructure facilities. Plastics are widely used in this industry for applications ranging from pipes, to windows and cold storages. The market for cold storage is especially promising, with an expected growth well above GDP in the next years.

SC: You have been with BASF for more than three decades. What made you stick to the company? How would you establish staff loyalty as a leader of the corporation?

AP: BASF takes care of its employees, providing a clear career path and opportunities for growth and development. Establishing staff loyalty against this backdrop is not difficult. That said, I have always tried to maintain an open leadership style with my team across the region. This helps to build trust, understanding and collaboration.

SC: Do you enjoy living in Singapore? How do you maintain a work-life balance?

AP: Singapore is a pleasant place to live and work. I travel quite a bit for work though. So maintaining a good work-life balance is important. I try to maintain my exercise schedule when I travel and adhere to a good diet. I also try to keep to reasonable working hours while I’m in Singapore.

BASF co-creation projects highlighted

Mobility care wheelchair.BASF is launching a few exciting technologies at CHINAPLAS 2019, including a new grade of Ultramid
® Advanced - a new group of compounds based on polyamide 6T/6I.

Ultramid® Advanced T1000 introduced last year is the product group with the highest strength and stiffness within the Ultramid® family, with stable mechanical properties at temperatures of up to 120C (dry) and up to 80C (conditioned). Due to its partially aromatic chemical structure, it offers high resistance to humidity - outperforming many conventional polyamides and other PPA materials on the market.

Yoga outfit.Some co-creation projects are also highlighted, including a yoga outfit, a mobility care wheelchair, a building of the future, and GAC concept cars. They demonstrate the company’s customer centricity and how successful collaboration along the entire value chain can better serve market needs - both now and in the future.

In short, visitors can expect to see how innovative chemistry-driven solutions are empowering the future of mobility, infrastructure, natural resources, and daily life.

On display are renewable and/or biodegradable polymers, which can be applied in single-use, disposable consumer goods; insulation systems which save energy and reduce emissions; and innovative materials for developing future transportation systems, such as lightweight automotive parts, and components for electric mobility.

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