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Ecolab to increase employee numbers at R&D centers

Updated: 2012-03-15 07:50

By Shi Jing in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Ecolab Inc, a sanitation supply company, will double the number of scientists it employs in two research and development centers in China as part of its strategy to further expand in emerging markets.

"The annual investment into R&D is about $10 million," said Sam Hsu, senior vice-president and general manager of Ecolab Greater China. "It is expected that the number of scientists will double within five years' time."

Ecolab now has about 110 scientists in China, serving both Chinese and overseas customers.

The company, which employs about 40,000 people globally, provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services to more than 160 countries and regions and had $11 billion in sales in 2011.

"For Ecolab, growth in Europe will be slower," said J. Erik Fyrwald, the company's president. He said the company's North America business is expected to grow by about 6 percent this year, while its business in emerging markets is to grow by a percentage in the double digits.

"The water market is growing strongly because of the lack of water in some very fast-industrializing parts of the world, such as parts of China, India and the Middle East."

He said providing water services is fast becoming a more important part of the company's business.

"The global water services market we participate in is $30 billion and Ecolab has about a 11 percent share," Fyrwald said. "Our next competitor has about half of that. The Chinese market is smaller today, but growing very fast. Our total company sales in China are more than 2 billion yuan ($315.8 million). The water business is our largest business, and the total Ecolab business is growing by 20 percent a year."

After an investment of more than $100 million, Ecolab's new Taicang plant in southeast Jiangsu province is scheduled to be completed by the end of March and put into operation in the first half of the year. Occupying more than 160,000 square meters, the new plant can produce as much as 150,000 tons of chemicals a year, which it will make exclusively for the Chinese market, Hsu said.

Hsu expressed no worries about the prospect of China's GDP growth slowing this year. He said he has noticed that the country is spending more on basic medical care and putting a great priority on food safety, a subject that Ecolab has expertise in.

"Industries will be affected by manufacturers' growth pace," Hsu said. "But judging by the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the central government is placing a greater emphasis on conserving resources and on the social welfare system, which are both likely to give us more opportunities to expand our business in China. Our investment into the Chinese market will not be affected by the decline of any specific industry."

Ecolab opened its first plant in Shanghai in 1987 and has since set up six manufacturing bases in China. Its partners include China Petrochemical Corp, China National Petroleum Corp and Baosteel Group Corp.