SGL Group expands European precursor base

Carbon fiber manufacturer SGL Group has acquired an 86 percent stake in Portuguese carbon fiber precursor manufacturer Fisipe — Fibras Sintéti- cas de Portugal S.A. The company manufactures polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor, which SGL expects to use to make small-tow carbon fiber.

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Carbon fiber manufacturer SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) has signed a contract to acquire an 86 percent stake in Fibras Sintéticas de Portugal SA (FISIPE, Lisbon, Portugal) from the principal shareholder, Negofor SA (Lisbon, Portugal). Thus, SGL Group is expanding its production network for the supply of raw materials for carbon fiber production to include a production facility for precursors. The purchase price is approximately €25 million ($33.3 million USD). At the same time, a mandatory public offer will be submitted to the Portuguese securities commission for the remaining shares in FISIPE. At HPC press time, the closing was targeted for the end of April. FISIPE’s top management team will remain in place.

The move, one SGL describes as “backward integration,” is expected to help the only Europe-based integrated manufacturer of carbon fibers in its long-term effort to strengthen its technology position along the entire value chain, from raw material through finished fiber to finished composite, the latter forged by SGL’s alliance with automaker BMW (visit SGL Group produces its precursors for its industrial-grade (50K) carbon fibers via a multisource strategy, through European Precursor GmbH, a joint venture that began in 2008 with Lenzing AG (Kelheim, Germany), in which SGL holds a 44 percent stake; and MRC SGL Precursor Co. Ltd., a joint venture with Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. (Otake, Japan), in which SGL owns a 33 percent share. With FISIPE, SGL now expects to be able to ensure its control over production of high-quality precursor for small-tow fibers (3K through 24K).

SGL and FISIPE have recently collaborated successfully on development projects. Going forward, the textile fiber lines at FISIPE’s Lavradio, Portugal, production site will be converted and will continue to manufacture acrylic fibers for special textile and technical applications. In addition, FISIPE has contracted with thermal processing equipment manufacturer Harper International (Buffalo, N.Y.) for installation of an ultrahigh-temperature (2800°C/5072°F) continuous-process furnace. The furnace project is funded through EUCARBON, a project of the European Union 7th Framework Program.

“Having our own supply of raw materials is absolutely essential in light of increasing quality and efficiency requirements,” says Dr. Jürgen Köhler, head of SGL’s Carbon Fibers & Composite Materials business unit. “This is why acquiring FISIPE is a logical strategic step toward strengthening our European precursor production base. FISIPE is a long-term partner with proven know-how in manufacturing acrylic fibers and has a modern production and research infrastructure with its own energy supply.”