Thai cement maker to build $20-million plant in Philippines

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The Mahaphant Group of Thailand, a leading manufacturer of fiber cement boards, has announced plans to put up a $20-million plant in the Philippines on or before 2017 to take advantage of the country’s rapidly growing demand for its products.

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Encouraged by the 10 percent to 15 percent annual growth in fiber cement sales in the Philippine market, the firm is conducting a feasibility study that is expected to take two-and-a-half years to complete “but the funding is not a problem,” said Mahaphant president Sarat Khiatbanlue.

Initially the local plant will produce fiber cement board and roof tiles, but eventually it would also make available other core products of the company, Khiatbanlue said.

Mahaphant first set up a distribution network in the country in 2008 and was enticed to exploit the growing demand for cement.

In the first quarter of 2014, the local requirement grew by 20 percent quarter-on-quarter, said Veerasak Kittinanthakool, vice president for marketing of Mahaphant, which held its first round table with the media Friday morning.

Kittinanthakool said that since 2008, the Philippines has been the third largest market of SHERA products after Thailand and Myanmar, but it outstripped Myanmar last year.

SHERA is the dominant supplier of fiber cement products in the Philippines and has obtained a certification from Green Choice Philippines in 2010 as a provider of alternative building solutions.

“Because the Philippines is a very important market in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, we have seen it fit to set up our fourth plant (the three production facilities are in Thailand) here to cater to this very rapidly growing market,” Khiatbanlue said.

Kittinanthakool attributed the rapid growth in Philippine sales to the rising demand for affordable housing, which is why in the coming months, the company will tie up with the government in the rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts for Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (Haiyan) and with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. for rebuilding the school buildings destroyed by the howler.

SHERA’s products have become popular because of their quality (with a 50-year warranty) and variety. SHERA products are also lightweight and are suited to the fast construction required under the government’s four-year recovery and rebuilding plan for ‘Yolanda’ areas.

Compared to Thailand’s per capita cement consumption of 35 kilos, the Philippines’ per capita demand of two kilos has a high potential for growth, he said.

The company said that the National Housing Authority’s estimated demand of 10 million affordable housing units over the next 15 years would require two million metric tons of their products.

Kittinanthakool said his company is confident that with its advanced research and development technology and its marketing experience in creating a new category in the Thai market, it could offer better housing and building solutions to the Philippines.

It is setting up a full office in the Philippines operated by Filipino and Thai staff as it aims for the top market position in the country.

Starting 2014, it will implement a full marketing program to expand its distribution network, build customer relationships and communicate brand awareness for SHERA to penetrate target market segments including architects, designers, contractors and homeowners.

Its three-year network expansion plan includes the opening of 4,000 stores, qualifying 5,000 well-trained carpenters and contractors and establishing a SHERA solution center as a one-stop service center for all its clients.

Founded in Thailand in 1974, the company now has 4,000 business partners in 40 countries in the four continents with 54 percent of its sales revenues coming from ASEAN and 16 percent from the Middle East. The best sellers are fiber cement board (12 percent) and fiber cement roof (67 percent) of total revenues.

The company has been certified as a “green” manufacturer by certifying agencies like GreenLabel of Singapore, the Indian Green Building Council, the US Green Building Council and others since it uses recycled raw materials.

The company’s vision is to be the international leader in innovative fiber cement solutions globally to enable people to build efficiently and live beautifully by improving the standard of the build environment.

To date it is the largest non-asbestos fiber cement producer in Asia with its SHERA and Ha Huang brands, with a total capacity of one million metric tons.

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