By David Reed, UT EditorMidland, Michigan-Polyurethanes were one of the key businesses which powered The Dow Chemical Co.'s sales to 31 Dec 2004 to a record $1090 million, up 31 percent on the prior year. Dow also announced preliminary plans to establish a research and development centre in the People's Republic of ChinaTotal earnings for the full year, EBIT (which Dow defines as earnings before interest, income taxes and minority interests), jumped nearly 62 percent from $1730 million in 2003 to $2797 million in 2004, the firm reported in a 27 Jan statement.Dow does not break out its results for polyurethanes, but said that , in the fourth quarter, "polyurethanes, engineering plastics and epoxy products led the way, each reporting an increase in sales of more than 25 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2003."Demand for polyurethanes remained strong across a broad range of end-use markets, including appliance, automotive and construction," the statement added.EBIT in Dow's performance plastics group, which encompasses these businesses, jumped 73 percent to $351 million for the quarter, Dow's statement showed.The annual data showed total sales in the performance plastics business up 22 percent to $9493 million, with EBIT rising almost 50 percent to $1048 million, representing just over 11 percent of sales. These numbers confirm what Dow called "significant margin restoration." In any case, the results are Dow's "eighth consecutive quarter of margin recovery."• Separately, Luciano Respini, Dow's corporate vice president, announced in Shanghai, People's Republic of China, that the firm plans to establish a state-of-the-art Research & Development Centre and Information Technology Center in China over the next two years. The firm expects to reveal the location for the unit in the next few weeks, and that the IT components of the unit will be set up within 12 months, according to a 25 Jan statement. The whole centre should be operational within three years, a statement from Dow indicated, with a total of 600 new jobs being created by the end of 2007.No specifics regarding the businesses likely to be operating from the centre were released."