In an interesting alliance that does not
involve any payments, Mahindra Sintered Products (MSP), the joint venture between the
Mahindra Group and the UK-based GKN, has entered into a tie-up with MicroMet of Germany to
put up an atomised copper powder project at Ahmednagar in central Maharashtra. MicroMet is
the high- technology subsidiary of Europe-based Norddeutsche Affinerie.
Under the deal MicroMet will give MSP its technology free, for the
latter acceding marketing rights, both within India and outside to MicroMet. That is,
after Mahindra Sintered keeps whatever amount of copper powder it wants, for its own
This unique deal has arisen from MSPs
need for a new technology that would have meant putting up a high capacity plant for it to
be viable. Thus, while the minimum capacity for an atomised copper powder plant was 2,000
tons per annum (tpa), MSP''s requirement was only for 600-700 tpa annually, and it had no
intention of getting into the business of marketing copper powder. Hence the unique deal
with Micro Met.
MicroMet, which makes 5,200 tpa copper powder
at its plant in Hamburg, Germany, selling mainly to the European and US markets, was
looking to expand its operations in Japan, Korea, and the Far East. In order to stay
closer to the new markets, MicroMet had been contemplating setting up a unit in this part
of the world, the options being China, Korea, Malaysia, or India. Hence, with the alliance
with MSP, MicroMet got the product without the cost of investing in the project.
MSP has put up a 2,400 tpa atomisation plant,
investing Rs 4.5 crores. It has been able to keep the investment low through using
existing facilities and indigenous equipment wherever possible, keeping investment to the
minimum. "If MicroMet had to put up such a green-field plant it would have cost them
at least five times the amount in this part of the world, and about ten times in
Germany," points out Brij Kataria, managing director of MSP.
What also helped MSP was its ability to
absorb the technology easily based on its ealier experience with an atomising unit for
iron powder, which it sold to Hoganas, in 1992.
Thus, as per the agreement, MSP keeps back
the 600-700 tpa for in-house requirement for its sintered products, and MicroMet buys up
the rest, and sells it wherever it chooses to, including India.
According to Claus Heitmann, managing
director, MicroMet, the German company, which has been selling about 1,000 tonnes of
copper powder to Japan and Korea, can now look to increasing its market share in these
countries. With the Korean market consuming 4,000 tons annually and Japan using close to
7,000 tons, MicroMet is aiming at capturing about 30 per cent share in the Korean market
and about 10 per cent in the difficult Japanese market.
The water-atomisation technology allows the
company to use electrolytic copper scrap, which is more readily available, and also to
produce a greater variety of graded powder for a number of applications.
"It''s a win-win situation," says
Kataria. "MicroMet gets access to capacities and markets. We get new technology,
consistent grade powder for our products, and an assured buyer for the excess