KORTRIJK, Belgium (Nov. 29) — Independent steel cord producer N.V. Bekaert S.A. is planning to expand its steel cord capacity in China by 50 percent to meet growing demand in Asia for truck and earthmover tires.
Bekaert only recently completed an expansion program in China that boosted annual capacity there to 120,000 metric tons. That project included a new plant in Weihai, Shandong Province, and expansions of capacity at plants in Jiangyin, Jiangsu Province, and Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
Bekaert did not disclose the investment budget for the program but said it would be in line with previous projects. In 2004-2005, Bekaert spent about $190 million in capital expenditures, primarily for the Chinese expansions.
The company also has established a steel-cord technical center in Jiangyin, China, aimed primarily at tire applications. The company said this center will be expanded further and has complemented it with an adjacent meeting and training center.
Bekaert also donated advanced laboratory equipment to the Materials Research & Test Center of the China Rubber Industry Association in Beijing, which plays an important role in the standardization of testing procedures and the comparisons of materials used in the rubber reinforcement industry.
For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Bekaert posted 15-percent higher sales, but management cautioned that markets in Europe and North America will continue to weaken. For the period, Bekaert´s sales rose to $2.54 billion, with sales of steel cord jumping 34 percent in China and 19 percent elsewhere, the firm reported.