By Liz White, UT staffSt Paul, Minnesota-US-headquartered adhesive maker H.B. Fuller Co. is setting up joint ventures with Japanese adhesives firm Sekisui Chemical Co. in Japan and China, in deals expected to be complete by mid-2005. In Japan, they will merge their adhesives businesses to create Sekisui-Fuller Co. Ltd. "The new entity will be one of the largest industrial adhesives businesses in Japan" with some "$150 million dollars in sales and considerable strength in the assembly, packaging, and non-woven segments," said a joint statement. Ownership will initially be 60:40 Sekisui: H.B. Fuller with an option after two years for H.B. Fuller to increase its share to 50 percent. Workers in the adhesives operations of both companies will transfer to Sekisui-Fuller.In China, H.B. Fuller will sell a 20 percent stake in its China operations to Sekisui again with an option after two years for the Japanese firm to to increase its stake to 30 percent. This partnership in China will allow the venture to capitalise on its relationship with Japanese companies operating in China to augment sales growth, the firms pointed out. "We are excited to be joining forces with Sekisui Chemical," said Al Stroucken, ceo of H.B. Fuller. "This joint venture unites two complementary businesses in a strategic alliance that will create a strong market participant in one of the fastest growing regions of the world," he added. H.B. Fuller pointed out that removal of the Japanese operations from its financial statements will deduct some $45 million from its balance sheet. St Paul-based H.B. Fuller makes adhesives, sealants and coatings, makes a wide variety of hot melt, water- and solvent-based, and reactive adhesives, which include polyurethane dispersions and one- and two-part heat cured PUs. In fiscal 2004, H.B. Fuller's sales totaled $1410 million; 54 percent from North American operations, 23 percent from Europe, 13 percent from Latin America and only 10 percent from Asia/Pacific. The group employs some 4500 people and has a direct presence in 33 countries. "