Pultron set for expansion

BUSINESS PARTNERS: Mateenbar Ltd’s new business partner, Sheikh Hassan Al-Kabanni (left), owner of Isam Khairy Kabbani Group of Companies, joins Pultron Composites’ chief executive Jasper Holdsworth outside the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at the recent Future Investment Initiative forum in Saudi Arabia. Mateenbar Ltd is Pultron Composites’ Dubai-based subsidiary. Pictures supplied
SAILING INTO THE FUTURE: Mateenbar in a concrete cast reinforces the structure of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai — one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
SOLID: Mateenbar was used in pre-cast concrete for post-earthquake seismic repair in Kaikoura. This structure will require no maintenance for more than 100 years.
NON-MAGNETIC: Mateenbar’s non-magnetic properties means the product is suitable for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s Yas Marina F1 circuit with its sensitive timing equipment.
HERO PRODUCT: Pultron Composites’ industry-approved non-corrosive, high-strength, lightweight structural rebar, Mateenbar has its own dedicated plant in Dubai. Mateen is an Arabic word that means strong and durable.
FLEXIBILITY: Pultron’s D-shaped rods on rubber-tracked devices provide increased flexibility in extreme all-terrain conditions.
NEW USES: Power pole cross-arms designed and manufactured at Pultron are lighter and longer-lasting than their timber counterparts.
MARINA DEL REY: The marina at California’s Marina Del Rey is the first US marina to use GFRP (glass fibre-reinforced polymer) patented technology throughout.

Pultron Composites’ superstar product Mateenbar, now also a subsidiary company in its own right, is driving expansion in Gisborne, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Mark Peters hears from CEO Jasper Holdsworth how a new plant here will supply equipment to support the growth of Mateenbar.

The success of a subsidiary business based on Pultron Composites’ smart rebar construction material Mateenbar is leading to expansion both in Gisborne and overseas. Mateenbar has also provided a business model Pultron can replicate.

Among Pultron Composites’ approximately 100 products, Mateenbar is a fibre-reinforced polymer pultrusion that is stronger and lighter than steel. The Gisborne-based company established a plant in Dubai eight years ago that is dedicated to producing it.

As a corrosion-resistant, lightweight, cost-effective steel-alternative, the heavy-duty pultrusion commands a different business model, says Pultron Composites’ chief executive Jasper Holdsworth.

“We spun that product out of Pultron and formed a new subsidiary and called it Mateenbar. It’s a different business model. Mateenbar has become a company in its own right and has blossomed out, with new plants planned for the US and Saudi Arabia.”

Pultron has two commercial arrangements with its subsidiary: a research and development contract, and an equipment-supply contract, to support the growth in these markets.

“Pultron can probably do that again — forge another subsidiary from another product,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Saudi Arabia and the USA

Although enquiries about Mateenbar are coming from around world, the fastest-growing markets for the product are the Middle East and North America, says Mr Holdsworth.

Pultron is investing in new facilities in both regions.

Mateenbar Ltd, the Dubai plant, was officially opened in 2011 and now another factory is to be built in Dammam in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia — in a partnership with the Isam Khairy Kabbani Group of Companies.

The factory will start production in March and will be opened by a senior vice-president of oil giant Saudi Aramco and the New Zealand ambassador. Skilled Mateenbar workers will relocate there.

Pultron has sold one third of Mateenbar Ltd to investors to support further growth overseas.

“We’re using that growth capital to expand into North Carolina,” says Mr Holdsworth.

“North Carolina is strategic. Down the east coast of the US, epoxy-coated steel reinforcement is being phased out and this is creating a tailwind for GFRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) rebar.

“A lot of money has been spent on maintenance of concrete infrastructure. It is estimated there are 55,000 bridges said to be structurally deficient with corrosion as the major factor.”

In Canada and some parts of the United States, salt is used to melt snow on the roads — which is corrosive for steel. Mateenbar, on the other hand, is non-corrosive and has greater durability.

“If a new bridge deck is built it will be reinforced with Mateenbar. The initial cost can be approximately the same, but the bridge will last twice as long.”

The site area in Concord, North Carolina will be 9569 square metres, about eight times larger than the existing facility in Dubai, and is expected to be in operation by June. Staff will be sent there to train personnel.

The Concord site is big enough to accommodate Mateenbar’s expansion plans and it is strategically located for raw materials and market access.

New equipment plant

Pultron’s growth in Saudi Arabia and North Carolina means there will be demand for the ongoing supply of plant equipment.

To meet those needs, Pultron Composites is poised to establish an equipment supply plant in Gisborne’s industrial subdivision.

“Aramco has endorsed the technology and approved the New Zealand and Dubai plants,” says Mr Holdsworth.

“All the equipment the North Carolina company needs will be manufactured and in some cases out-sourced by the Pultron engineering team.

“The plant will be dedicated to making Mateenbar for the North American market. Because Mateenbar is scaling up in North America, the equipment and technology supply contract will drive jobs here.

“It’s a major initiative to drive our growth for the next decade. This initiative will drive the R and D (research and development) side of the business forward”.

Research and development

Pultron’s business model is essentially research and development, manufacturing and finding business partners, says Mr Holdsworth.

“Our business model is to fund the next big idea. We’ve been involved in about 45 innovations in the past 15-or-so years. For example, we’ve developed products for marine, mining, rubber tracked machines, and power pole cross arm applications.”

Most applications are driven by entrepreneurs or engineers, “or someone trying to find a replacement material for wood, steel or aluminion, and is interested in looking at composites”.

“When people find us they discover not just a manufacturer but an innovations company with deep technical expertise in pultrusions across a broad spectrum of competencies.

“We can harvest knowledge from about six knowledge sectors.

“That’s where we’ve invested heavily in R and D. It’s a collaboration between knowledge sectors.”

Mateenbar is one of the top drivers in Pultron’s growth, says Mr Holdsworth.

“Mateenbar is at an inflection point and poised for significant growth. It’s a major initiative to drive our growth, as this product continues to shift up the adoption curve.”

A shift in sentiment

Mateenbar costs more than steel but its long-term performance is far more cost-effective.

The shift from a focus on upfront cost to cost-of-life — the longer life-span of a product — is now a guiding economic principle in government or municipalities, particularly overseas, says Mr Holdsworth.

Some products or processes might have a higher upfront cost than what has historically been used, but are more economical in the long run. You can either be cost-focused or value-focused, he says.

“In the past 10 years there has been an improvement in technology which translates into falling costs. As technology advances, our costs come down.”

Advances in technology mean the properties of Mateenbar have also advanced.

In the early days no formalised engineering or material standards or codes existed, says Mr Holdsworth.

Composites behave differently from steel materials, and the engineering behind embedding composite materials such as Mateenbar in concrete differs from the process used to embed steel in concrete.

The development of standards and guidelines means engineers can now follow a formula. This has been a significant driver in the uptake of Mateenbar.

Not only has Mateenbar been used in multiple heavy-duty applications such as in the construction of sea walls, tunnels, aluminium smelters, toll booths, bridges, highways and the tall, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab that stands on an artificial island in Dubai, the product has been supplied to multiple countries.

“It has been widely adopted,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Replicable here for Oceania

“All the business activity in the US market can be replicated in New Zealand for the Oceania market,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Oceania includes New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific islands.

“Our attention to marketing in this region has been limited. The focus has been more on internally-focused activities like driving the technology forward, technology transfer, government approvals, independent testing, and driving costs downwards while getting (products) proven in multiple applications, geographies and maximizing awareness with engineering consultants.

“A recent example is the Kaikoura earthquake. The seismic repair of the highway was reinforced by our composite rebar and this structure will require no maintenance for over 100 years.

“New Zealand produces some of the most advanced composite structures, such as yachts. We’re probably 10 years behind with standard structural applications like concrete infrastructure, but there is a change in sentiment. If examined carefully, the cost of corrosion is hard on the public purse.”

The impact of Mateenbar on the environment will be of interest in New Zealand. In terms of sustainability, its production requires 30 percent less energy than steel production and it does not leach in soil or sea water. Mateenbar is quarter the weight of steel, so transportation is more cost-efficient, says Mr Holdsworth.

“The real green aspect of Mateenbar is that it’s life span in a corrosive environment is double or triple that of steel.”

Pultron Composites’ superstar product Mateenbar, now also a subsidiary company in its own right, is driving expansion in Gisborne, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Mark Peters hears from CEO Jasper Holdsworth how a new plant here will supply equipment to support the growth of Mateenbar.

The success of a subsidiary business based on Pultron Composites’ smart rebar construction material Mateenbar is leading to expansion both in Gisborne and overseas. Mateenbar has also provided a business model Pultron can replicate.

Among Pultron Composites’ approximately 100 products, Mateenbar is a fibre-reinforced polymer pultrusion that is stronger and lighter than steel. The Gisborne-based company established a plant in Dubai eight years ago that is dedicated to producing it.

As a corrosion-resistant, lightweight, cost-effective steel-alternative, the heavy-duty pultrusion commands a different business model, says Pultron Composites’ chief executive Jasper Holdsworth.

“We spun that product out of Pultron and formed a new subsidiary and called it Mateenbar. It’s a different business model. Mateenbar has become a company in its own right and has blossomed out, with new plants planned for the US and Saudi Arabia.”

Pultron has two commercial arrangements with its subsidiary: a research and development contract, and an equipment-supply contract, to support the growth in these markets.

“Pultron can probably do that again — forge another subsidiary from another product,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Saudi Arabia and the USA

Although enquiries about Mateenbar are coming from around world, the fastest-growing markets for the product are the Middle East and North America, says Mr Holdsworth.

Pultron is investing in new facilities in both regions.

Mateenbar Ltd, the Dubai plant, was officially opened in 2011 and now another factory is to be built in Dammam in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia — in a partnership with the Isam Khairy Kabbani Group of Companies.

The factory will start production in March and will be opened by a senior vice-president of oil giant Saudi Aramco and the New Zealand ambassador. Skilled Mateenbar workers will relocate there.

Pultron has sold one third of Mateenbar Ltd to investors to support further growth overseas.

“We’re using that growth capital to expand into North Carolina,” says Mr Holdsworth.

“North Carolina is strategic. Down the east coast of the US, epoxy-coated steel reinforcement is being phased out and this is creating a tailwind for GFRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) rebar.

“A lot of money has been spent on maintenance of concrete infrastructure. It is estimated there are 55,000 bridges said to be structurally deficient with corrosion as the major factor.”

In Canada and some parts of the United States, salt is used to melt snow on the roads — which is corrosive for steel. Mateenbar, on the other hand, is non-corrosive and has greater durability.

“If a new bridge deck is built it will be reinforced with Mateenbar. The initial cost can be approximately the same, but the bridge will last twice as long.”

The site area in Concord, North Carolina will be 9569 square metres, about eight times larger than the existing facility in Dubai, and is expected to be in operation by June. Staff will be sent there to train personnel.

The Concord site is big enough to accommodate Mateenbar’s expansion plans and it is strategically located for raw materials and market access.

New equipment plant

Pultron’s growth in Saudi Arabia and North Carolina means there will be demand for the ongoing supply of plant equipment.

To meet those needs, Pultron Composites is poised to establish an equipment supply plant in Gisborne’s industrial subdivision.

“Aramco has endorsed the technology and approved the New Zealand and Dubai plants,” says Mr Holdsworth.

“All the equipment the North Carolina company needs will be manufactured and in some cases out-sourced by the Pultron engineering team.

“The plant will be dedicated to making Mateenbar for the North American market. Because Mateenbar is scaling up in North America, the equipment and technology supply contract will drive jobs here.

“It’s a major initiative to drive our growth for the next decade. This initiative will drive the R and D (research and development) side of the business forward”.

Research and development

Pultron’s business model is essentially research and development, manufacturing and finding business partners, says Mr Holdsworth.

“Our business model is to fund the next big idea. We’ve been involved in about 45 innovations in the past 15-or-so years. For example, we’ve developed products for marine, mining, rubber tracked machines, and power pole cross arm applications.”

Most applications are driven by entrepreneurs or engineers, “or someone trying to find a replacement material for wood, steel or aluminion, and is interested in looking at composites”.

“When people find us they discover not just a manufacturer but an innovations company with deep technical expertise in pultrusions across a broad spectrum of competencies.

“We can harvest knowledge from about six knowledge sectors.

“That’s where we’ve invested heavily in R and D. It’s a collaboration between knowledge sectors.”

Mateenbar is one of the top drivers in Pultron’s growth, says Mr Holdsworth.

“Mateenbar is at an inflection point and poised for significant growth. It’s a major initiative to drive our growth, as this product continues to shift up the adoption curve.”

A shift in sentiment

Mateenbar costs more than steel but its long-term performance is far more cost-effective.

The shift from a focus on upfront cost to cost-of-life — the longer life-span of a product — is now a guiding economic principle in government or municipalities, particularly overseas, says Mr Holdsworth.

Some products or processes might have a higher upfront cost than what has historically been used, but are more economical in the long run. You can either be cost-focused or value-focused, he says.

“In the past 10 years there has been an improvement in technology which translates into falling costs. As technology advances, our costs come down.”

Advances in technology mean the properties of Mateenbar have also advanced.

In the early days no formalised engineering or material standards or codes existed, says Mr Holdsworth.

Composites behave differently from steel materials, and the engineering behind embedding composite materials such as Mateenbar in concrete differs from the process used to embed steel in concrete.

The development of standards and guidelines means engineers can now follow a formula. This has been a significant driver in the uptake of Mateenbar.

Not only has Mateenbar been used in multiple heavy-duty applications such as in the construction of sea walls, tunnels, aluminium smelters, toll booths, bridges, highways and the tall, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab that stands on an artificial island in Dubai, the product has been supplied to multiple countries.

“It has been widely adopted,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Replicable here for Oceania

“All the business activity in the US market can be replicated in New Zealand for the Oceania market,” says Mr Holdsworth.

Oceania includes New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific islands.

“Our attention to marketing in this region has been limited. The focus has been more on internally-focused activities like driving the technology forward, technology transfer, government approvals, independent testing, and driving costs downwards while getting (products) proven in multiple applications, geographies and maximizing awareness with engineering consultants.

“A recent example is the Kaikoura earthquake. The seismic repair of the highway was reinforced by our composite rebar and this structure will require no maintenance for over 100 years.

“New Zealand produces some of the most advanced composite structures, such as yachts. We’re probably 10 years behind with standard structural applications like concrete infrastructure, but there is a change in sentiment. If examined carefully, the cost of corrosion is hard on the public purse.”

The impact of Mateenbar on the environment will be of interest in New Zealand. In terms of sustainability, its production requires 30 percent less energy than steel production and it does not leach in soil or sea water. Mateenbar is quarter the weight of steel, so transportation is more cost-efficient, says Mr Holdsworth.

“The real green aspect of Mateenbar is that it’s life span in a corrosive environment is double or triple that of steel.”

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.