New plants to make Lumena No 1 producer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am

Lumena Resources Corp will become the world's largest thenardite producer when its two new production lines are completed in the next two years, according to chief executive Zhang Daming.

The Sichuan-based chemical company, which will kick off its HK$1.5 billion initial public share offering next week, was also in talks to buy mines to increase its reserve base and hoped to seal some deals in the near future, Mr Zhang said.

The institutional portion of Lumena's offering was scheduled to open on Monday with the retail portion to open on Friday, sources said earlier. Shares are expected to begin trading on June 19.

Thenardite, also known as sodium sulphate, is mainly used in chemical and light industries for manufacturing powdered detergent, dyes, glass and some pharmaceutical products.

Proctor & Gamble is ultimately Lumena's largest customer, though the product first goes through other suppliers that refine and process the thenardite further.

The company has three mines in Sichuan, in the southwest of the country, with 57.2 million tonnes of proved and probable thenardite reserves. It mines and processes the mineral into three forms of thenardite - powder, specialty and the medical form.

Currently, Lumena is the world's second-largest thenardite producer with an annual capacity of 1.6 million tonnes. It has an 11.3 per cent global market share and 23.2 per cent on the mainland.

China Nafine Group, the world's largest, has an annual capacity of 1.65 million tonnes, according to a report by BOC International, one of Lumena's bookrunners.

Mr Zhang said the company would complete the construction of a 200,000 tonne-a-year facility for the production of medical thenardite in the second half of the year and a 1 million tonne-a-year line for the production of specialty thenardite in the second half of next year. 'As the two new production lines will produce higher-margin products, it would enhance our profitability,' he said.

More than 50 per cent of the company's sales volume and turnover came from specialty thenardite and medical thenardite products, and the proportion of such products would further increase in the future, he added.

The gross profit margin of Lumena's powder thenardite products last year was 28.2 per cent, but specialty thenardite was 70.7 per cent and medical thenardite reached 77.8 per cent, according to the BOC report.

Volume growth and increasingly high-margin products would be the company's earnings growth drivers, BOC said.

Mr Zhang said demand and prices of thenardite products were not affected much by the global economic downturn, especially the prices of its specialty and medical thenardite products. BOC also said thenardite had a wide range of industrial and consumer uses, which made it less susceptible to economic fluctuations.

The average selling price of Lumena's thenardite products was expected to increase to 783 yuan (HK$890.37) a tonne next year and 883 yuan in 2011, up from 758 yuan last year, the investment bank said.

Lumena posted a profit of 430 million yuan last year, up from 79 million in 2007. BOC forecast the company would deliver a 19 per cent increase in net profit to 512 million yuan this year and further increase that to 912 million yuan in 2010.