Teijin to boost carbon fiber in U.S. for gas, auto needs

Bloomberg

Teijin Ltd., a supplier of carbon fiber used in the Airbus SAS superjumbo jet, is considering plans to expand output in the United States to meet demand for the lightweight material in cars and storage tanks for natural gas.

Teijin plans to increase its global output by about 36 percent to 18,900 metric tons a year by 2016, Executive Vice President Norio Kamei said in an interview in Tokyo. It may expand its Tennessee factory or build a plant with a 5,000-ton production capacity, he said, declining to give a cost.

Teijin and its larger domestic rival, Toray Industries Inc., are pushing sales in North America, where the boom in extracting natural gas from shale rock is jacking up demand for fiber used to wrap storage tanks to increase strength. It’s also used in Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LFA sports car, and Teijin is working with General Motors Co. on technology that reduces carbon fiber costs and molding time to enable mass production, Kamei said.

“Carbon fiber will play a bigger role in manufacturing to cut weight and conserve energy as we move toward a low-carbon society,” Kamei said Monday. “We expect the auto industry to be a bigger customer from 2015 onward.”

Toray, the world’s top supplier of carbon fiber, will use its South Korean plant, slated to open next year, as a base to ship the material to the U.S., President Akihiro Nikkaku told reporters in Tokyo on Nov. 21. It holds an 80 percent share of the market for strengthening gas tanks, he said.

Shares in Teijin, which supplies fibers and materials in products ranging from bulletproof vests and Airbus A380s to solar battery panels, have fallen 20 percent this year as Europe’s debt crisis and China’s slowing growth eroded earnings. It slashed its full year profit outlook by 75 percent on Nov. 2, the second revision in three months.

In Tokyo trading Wednesday, the stock rose 1 percent to ¥190.

Teijin, which operates carbon fiber plants in Japan and Germany, has a 20 percent share of the 40,000 ton-a-year global market, the biggest after Toray.