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The Chemical Industry and Rubber

According to the INE, the region's chemical industry, which employs some 6,574 people, achieved net sales of 2,114 million euros in 2005. In the report, the association drew attention to investment levels at firms in the industry, which work in sectors ranging from oil refinery and the chemical industry proper to the production of rubber and plastic goods. Businesses in the chemical industry were planning to invest around 232 million euros altogether from 2002 to 2004. Of the 112 associated firms, 66 possess ISO 9000 certification and 17 either have, or are being audited for, ISO 14001:1996.

According to the report, in 2002 Basque chemical production accounted for 5.2% of the country's total production, with the industry's turnover accounting for 4.8% of the Spanish total.

Nearly half the production of the region's chemical industry came from the sector manufacturing chemical products for the industry, where the larger companies lead the field. Products manufactured by firms in this sector include paint, ink, enamel, varnish, glues and essential oils.

Basic chemistry is the second leading sub-sector within the industry. The category covers manufacturers of organic and inorganic chemical products, raw materials for plastics, rubbers, synthetic latex and chemical fibres, and is dominated by multinationals like Elf Atochem and Dow Chemical. Pharmaceutical firm Faes leads the field in health and healthcare chemistry, the industry's third sub-sector.

Also located in the Basque Country is Petronor, one of Spain's foremost oil refineries. Petronor is the leading supplier of the raw materials needed for the manufacture of oil-based organic chemical products. Its size and location close to the port of Bilbao (where it has its own loading terminal) help to make Petronor one of the region's major exporters.
Most of the Basque chemical industry's main clients work in the iron and steel industry, the production of metal goods, plastics, paper, electrical and electronic materials and rubber. In the metal industry, chemical products are used mostly in the transformation and treatment of metals, and particularly in the treatment of metal surfaces. A whole range of processes is used to protect or harden the metal, or simply to complete final product finish.
Manufacturers of plastic goods are some of the regional chemical industry's best customers. Roughly three quarters of all the Basque plastic product industry's supply costs are incurred through the acquisition of chemically-based products and, more specifically, the procurement of plastics-related raw materials.

Research in the regional plastic goods sector is particularly dynamic, with continual progress being made on new materials and new applications. This sector also has close links with other industries and sectors important to the Basque economy, including the automotive ancillary industry, white line household goods and appliances and machine tools.


Rubber and synthetic latex manufacturing, which is in fact a part of the basic chemical sector, also has direct links with the chemical industry. A highly important activity in Basque industry, rubber transformation basically concentrates, in quantitative terms at least, on tyre production. Many of the other products made within the industry are also destined for the automotive industry.

A significant part of the sector's activity, especially in the rubber sub sector, is carried out in the Basque Country, which is why the analysis is considered to represent the Basque situation (15% of the non-tyre converting companies, and in the case of tyres, the multinational plants of Michelin in Guipuzkoa and Alava and Bridgestone-Firestone in Vizcaya).

Foreign capital is particularly prevalent in Basque rubber goods manufacturers. Two of the world's leading tyre-producing multinationals (Michelin and Bridgestone) have had subsidiaries in the Basque Country for several decades. Foreign capital has shareholdings and interests in many other firms in the industry as well. Swedish firm Trelleborg, currently Europe's leading rubber sheet manufacturer, recently took a majority holding in the capital of Ibercaucho (now called Trelleborg Ibercaucho Álava).

Its strong inclination towards exporting is another characteristic that define the sector; exports reached sales levels of 676.66 million euros in 2005.  Not in vain, the sector is traditionally ranked in second place of Basque exports non-energy product exports.  Basque exports represent 30.5% of the total national exports.

The French company, Michelin, is the most deeply rooted multinationals in the Basque Country.  Two of the four production centres that it owns in Spain are in Basque territory (in Vitoria-Gastiez, Araia and Lasarte).  The Vitoria-Gasteiz factory is one of the multinational's most important.  It is structured into 5 lines of activity, dedicated to the tyre production for public works machinery, automobiles, and lorries as well as the production of mixtures and steel cable transformation.  It manufactures 1,500 different types of tyres that are dispatched to the major industrial and mining countries.  They are currently carrying out an expansion project on their factory in Vitoria to manufacture giant tyres.

The other major multinational working in the Basque rubber goods production sub-sector, Japanese concern Bridgestone Hispania, has two factories in the region (in Basauri and Usansolo, both a few kilometres outside Bilbao) out of a total of four in Spain altogether. The Corporation's larger, more important factory at Basauri makes all lorry, coach and bus tyres produced by the multinational in Europe.

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Source: Presidency of the Government - General Secretariat for Communication

Fecha de la última modificación: 22/04/2008