Beijing air pollution

Technology firm Halma cleans up in Beijing's war on air pollution

Technology firm Halma sees potential for its pollution-monitoring equipment as Beijing pushes for better environmental standards

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 5:52am

The London-listed technology firm Halma plans to make inroads into the market for air pollution monitors on the mainland as advanced technology is increasingly adopted to protect the environment and ensure food safety.

Halma, a maker of safety, health care and environmental technology products forecasts 30 per cent annual growth in its mainland business over the next three to five years, buoyed by rising demand for its products. Chuck Dubois, chief executive of Halma's fluid technology division, said: "Obviously, that's much higher than the growth of [gross domestic product]. But there's still a lot of growth in those sectors we are in, and we believe we can capture it."

Among the lines with highest potential are Halma's Alicat mass flow controllers. The company says this series of devices, which improves the accuracy of air monitors, is set to become one of its key growth engines on the mainland after Beijing's decision to raise air quality standards and improve the disclosure of air quality data.

More than 20 cities across the mainland publish PM2.5 readings every day, creating a market of up to 5 billion yuan (HK$6.24 billion) as local governments buy PM2.5 monitors. PM2.5 refers to airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns, which cause haze and pose the biggest health risks.

So far, most of the PM2.5 monitors used by local governments have been imported, but several domestic manufacturers are upgrading their own products to bring them in line with standards demanded by the environment protection campaign.

But it is not just the authorities taking an interest in the products. Companies in Wuhan in Hubei province, Tongling in Anhui province, and Shenzhen had ordered Alicat's mass flow controllers, Halma said.

Halma expects its mainland businesses to account for 10 per cent of its global total by 2015, up from 5 per cent now.

Beijing's determination to move mainland manufacturing up the value chain, and the rising demand for advanced technology to improve living standards has created opportunities for global hi-tech firms such as Halma.

"Today the market is willing to adapt to high-technology products," said Martin Zhang, a director with Halma. "There is very strong demand in the market."

Halma also develops technology that can help detect melamine. Several years ago, the chemical was found to have been added to dairy products to give a false protein count, resulting in a scandal that raised serious concerns about the country's food safety.

Early this month, the company established HFT Shanghai, which incorporates the businesses of Halma brands including Bio-Chem Fluidics, Diba and Perma Pure, to consolidate its purchasing, production and research on the mainland.