By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News Correspondent
Guangzhou, China - When the list of Chinaplas 2009 participants was released earlier this year, there were a number of regular exhibitors missing -- gaps assumed by most to be collateral damage of the financial crisis.
On the floor during the show, no absence was quite so noticeable as Bayer MaterialScience AG.
In past years the Bayer booth has been an attraction, with flashy displays and crowd-drawing entertainment that included break dancing teams and an entirely plastic car. At a news conference held during the exhibition, Ranier Rettig, senior vice president of Bayer MaterialScience's Asia-Pacific Polycarbonates, Advanced Resins Division, explained the company's absence was not due to a lack of resources, but rather a reshuffling of priorities.
"We wanted to use that money and put it into more tangible activities," said Rettig. "This is not due to financial constraints."
While Rettig brushed off the impact of the economic crisis, Bayer MaterialScience has had a tough year globally. In the first quarter of 2009, the company posted a 34.9 percent decline in net sales compared to the same period last year. The drop in sales was attributed to weakening demand, particularly in the company's polyurethane and polycarbonates business. "Everybody's feeling the crisis," Rettig said. "But the market dynamics in Asia and in China are very adaptive."
Rettig pointed out that while there were drops in Bayer MaterialScience's sales, other Bayer businesses were doing well, helping to offset the losses. "The healthcare business is good and crop science is also doing well," Rettig said. In the meantime, Bayer MaterialScience is taking the time to get to know domestic companies in China, particularly the small and medium-size companies that make up a great part of China's manufacturing.
"We will spend our money at the customer interface," Rettig said. In one example, Bayer MaterialScience offered some clients the opportunity to enroll in a mini master of business administration program at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Activities like this are now a priority, Rettig said.
Bayer MaterialScience also is opening a number of colour and design centres, the latest of which is soon to open in Guangzhou. These centres are directed at the company's small and midsize clients, according to Rettig. They help clients innovate and tailor colour and other attributes quickly, on a product-specific basis.
"We are trying to promote more innovation and a more innovative approach," said Michelle Jou, vice president of Bayer MaterialScience's China/Hong Kong polycarbonates division. In addition to the Guangzhou centre, Bayer MaterialScience also operates centres in Shanghai and Greater Noida, India.