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Nuplex beefs up investment plans across Asia

Nuplex Industries, the specialty chemicals manufacturer, is exploring more investment opportunities across Asia, having shifted its businesses away from the firm's traditional markets in Australia and New Zealand.

The Auckland-based company officially opened a US$35 million plant in China's Changshu, and is already considering expansion plans for the site, where it holds a 50-year lease. The company was caught out by under-investing in Asia, and has since increased efforts in the region, spending $60 million over the past four years.

Chief executive Emery Severin says China, as the world's second-biggest economy, looms large in those plans, as does the rest of South East Asia.

"Here in Asia, our total South East Asia business is bigger than China," he told a visiting ministerial delegation, led by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. "We expect China to be the biggest business in maybe 10 years' time, but we see South East Asia as being just as important in terms of growth."

For profits derived from Asia, China accounts for about 40 percent, while South East Asia contributes 60 percent, Severin said.

Nuplex has been assessing its plans for further growth initiatives in emerging markets, and has previously said it would update shareholders following a review at the end of the June quarter.

That's included the sale of two Australasian Masterbatch and Specialities units, which Nuplex says leaves it to focus on the global resins business.

Severin said Russia was a largely untapped market where Nuplex has invested about $10 million to chase growth, and would expect to spend between $30 million and $40 million over the next couple of years.

The company's shares last traded at $3.25 and have declined about 3 percent in the past year. The stock is rated a buy based on the consensus of six analysts polled by Reuters.