Hitachi Chemical earmarks Thailand as export hub for auto batteries

BANGKOK, NNA - Japan's Hitachi Chemical Co. is ramping up its position in Asia's automotive battery market by touting Thailand as a strategic hub for exports after buying a listed local maker.

Hitachi Chemical has added five million units of output to its existing annual battery production capacity of 1.2 million after acquiring an 86.9 percent stake in Thai Storage Battery Public Co., or TSB, for around 16 billion yen ($142 million) to boost sales overseas, particularly in Asian countries.

TSB currently exports its products to more than 50 countries. "We are quite aggressive in developing new markets, especially overseas, as domestic performance is still good," the newly appointed TSB chief executive officer, Toshinori Osumi, said at a press conference Wednesday.

The new subsidiary for the Japanese company plans to increase the ratio of exports to total sales from the current 55 percent to 70 to 80 percent in the near future, Osumi added. He also said TSB, which is due to be delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand following the takeover in July, will expand research and development expenditure while utilizing Hitachi Chemical's technical expertise and human resources.

The leading Thai battery maker, with a 23 percent share in the domestic market, aims to double or triple automotive battery exports to Asia from the current level of around three million units, Osumi said.

The Thai automotive battery market totals six million units a year, consisting of four million for replacement and two million for original equipment manufacturing for carmakers, showing a tepid growth of 1 to 2 percent.

However, the market overall is expected to grow 4 to 5 percent in the next two years in the wake of new types of batteries launched by many manufacturers, such as sealed maintenance-free models.

TSB on Wednesday also rolled out a new maintenance-free battery model, "3K Advance X-Treme," with prices starting from 2,000 baht ($60), to enhance its product lineup and meet growing demand for replacement batteries. (NNA/Kyodo)