A. Schulman might consider itself the master of all masterbatches. The company is a global leader in masterbatches, color and additive concentrates that are combined with polymer resins by its customers to provide color to plastic products or enhance their performance in some way. A. Schulman also produces engineered plastics (compounded products used in making durable goods, appliances, and toys) and specialty powders (compounded resin powders used in rotationally molded products ranging from kayaks to gas tanks). It also serves as a distributor for polymer producers worldwide. Its high-performance plastic compounds and resins are used in packaging, consumer products, and automotive and industrial products.
The company now organizes its core businesses -- masterbatch, engineered plastics, specialty powders, and distribution services -- into four main region-based segments: Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the Americas, and Asia/Pacific (APAC).
Its masterbatches are used as the key ingredient in a customer's product formula. A. Schulman's recent acquisitions expanded the company's masterbatch offerings as well as its geographic presence. Its additive compounds are used to provide a range of colors or to enhance performance properties, including antibacterial, heat-sensitive, fluorescent, and processing attributes.
A. Schulman's engineered plastics also impart certain performance characteristics by combining high-performance polymer resins with various modifiers, reinforcements, additives, or pigments to form a compound to meet its customer's specifications. A. Schulman has been formulating compounds since the early 1950s to meet the needs of the plastics industry. Its blends include polyolefins, nylons, polyesters, elastomers, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
Specialty powders are used in applications such as powder coating, cosmetics, and the manufacture of additives. The rotational molding process is used to make plastic products including gas and water tanks and playground slides. The company provides other services such as grinding, or size reduction, of specialty powders for its customers.
A. Schulman also serves as a distributor of other global polymer producers to assist in markets which are not easily accessible to them or do not fit into their core supply chain or customer segment.
The company operates 36 manufacturing facilities: 21 in the EMEA and APAC regions and 15 in the Americas.
A. Schulman reported net sales of about $2.2 billion in fiscal 2011, a 38% hike over the previous year. The rise in sales resulted primarily from its integration of ICO, acquired in 2010. Other drivers included increases in average selling prices, volume, and demand. Net sales increased in each of the company's reportable segments. Net income was $41 million, down about 6% from the fiscal 2010 earnings of $44 million, due to special charges related to a dispute settlement and the methodology used to calculate inventory reserves.
Acquisitions are a key part of the company's strategy for growth, as it continually seeks to expand its global footprint to maximize opportunities. It targets strategic acquisitions that will speed its entry into underserved markets. A. Schulman also looks to new product development to drive growth, and is focusing on higher margin applications. In its engineered plastics business, it seeks to reduce its North American auto capacity and focus on its most profitable lines of business. It also wants to continue development of sustainable "green" products. To counteract the global economic slump, the company has been cutting back on capacity and using the assets of its global operations effectively.
The company completed its acquisition of Brazilian plastics maker Mash Compostos Plásticos in 2011. Mash Compostos is a São Paulo-based producer of additives and engineered plastics compounds. That year it extended its presence in South America by agreeing to acquire a 51% interest in a joint venture with Argentina-based Surplast. Surplast makes rotational molding products.
To broaden its stance as a global manfacturer of engineered plastics in niche markets, the company agreed in 2012 to form a joint venture with Saudi Arabia-based National Petrochemical Industrial Company, a subsidiary of Alujain Corp. The 50-50 joint venture is expected to be called NATPET-Schulman Engineering Plastic Compounds and will produce and market polypropylene compounds. The venture expects to begin production by the end of 2014. – less