Taiwan’s Eternal makes most of growth in Asia to become a major regional player
The Kaohsiung-headquartered company has become a reliable manufacturer of electronic chemical materials for use in the printed circuit board, semiconductor and liquid crystal display sectors
Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports www.discoveryreports.com
Asia’s competitive landscape is shifting, with more regional companies outplaying multinational corporations banking on their intimate understanding of local market needs, well-established networks, strategic responsiveness and product flexibility. Taiwan’s Eternal Materials is one such company, attributing its 52 years of profitability to its Asia-centred strategy.
“We are more of a regional player rather than a global player,” says Allen Kao, chairman of the board and CEO. “We are growing with the region, gaining ground from Asia’s episode of rapid economic progress starting in the 1960s and the opening up of the Chinese economy in the 1980s. We were at the right place at the right time. Now with our solid reputation in Asia, we envisage expanding our business reach worldwide.”
Founded as a traditional resin manufacturer in 1964, Eternal transformed itself into a leading supplier of resin materials, electronic chemical products and speciality chemicals to the region’s mainstream industries and hi-tech businesses.
Fully committed to continuous innovations and sustainable operations, the company’s core competencies have grown to encompass polymer synthesis, chemical formulation and analysis, precision coating, nanotechnology and green energy technology.
Eternal initially earned recognition for its synthetic resins and unsaturated polyester resins for primary application in paints and coatings, construction chemicals and adhesives, but later on expanded its portfolio to cater to more industries. The Kaohsiung-headquartered company has become a reliable manufacturer of electronic chemical materials for use in the printed circuit board, semiconductor and liquid crystal display sectors. With diverse offerings of fine chemicals and key materials, Eternal has also ventured into the domains of touch materials and equipment, photoelectronics, solar energy, flexible electronics and biomaterials in line with efforts to become a comprehensive materials supplier.
“We have become more and more diversified to align our products and services to meet changing customer requirements,” Kao says. “And with China making its strategic pivot towards innovation from being a centre of low-end manufacturing, we are positioned to seize resulting market opportunities. Our flexibility to work with clients to find the right product sets us apart from our bigger multinational rivals.”
At its research facility in Luchu district in Kaohsiung, Eternal conducts its primary product development work with the help of more than 300 research chemists. Eternal also operates the Mainland China Research and Development Center in Shanghai that is dedicated to create and customise solutions for China’s flourishing manufacturing industries. As it seeks to contribute more to society, developing high-performance and eco-friendly products remains a core focus for Eternal. The company aims to further broaden its line of green energy and energy storage materials that already includes transparent conductive thin films, conductive polymer materials, solid capacitor materials, nano-energy materials and dye-sensitised solar cell materials.
Apart from its distinct management style of combining Western business practices and traditional Chinese values, a key pillar of the company’s competitive rise is its extensive manufacturing network that lowers customers’ logistics costs and allows shorter lead times.
To date, Eternal operates three production plants in Taiwan, 17 in mainland China, two in Japan and one each in Thailand and Virginia in the United States – all of which are environmentally compliant. To meet the region’s rising demand for synthetic resins and unsaturated polyester resins, Eternal broke ground on a new manufacturing plant in Johor, Malaysia, in September last year. The facility is anticipated to come online before the end of next year.
“Certain manufacturing operations, particularly labour-intensive activities, are being moved out of China to other parts of Asia,” Kao says. “That’s why we are building our Malaysian plant to keep pace with the production transfer. Where our customers go, we go. This is one of the foundations of our sustained growth and a guiding principle as we foray into northeast Asia.”