KUALA LUMPUR: Belgium-based Lhoist is investing 170 million euros (RM704.17mil) as part of the first phase of its business expansion in Malaysia and the region.
The privately-held industrial firm, a leading lime producer with an annual turnover of 2 billion euros, acquired its first limestone quarry near Ipoh, Perak, in 2007 and a limestone producer in 2013.
The company plans to build Asia’s largest lime plant in Tapah, Perak, a research and support centre and a regional office in Kuala Lumpur.
Lhoist (M) Sdn Bhd general manager Michel Bruyere said the Tapah plant would be operational in 2016.
“We’re now at the earth-piling stage,” he told StarBiz on the sidelines following the official visit of Princess Astrid of Belgium to the company’s office.
Lhoist vice-president public affairs Jean Marbehant said the company chose Malaysia as its hub because it was a stable central country and had an open economy compared with other countries in South-East Asia.
Besides the financial investment, Bruyere said the company would bring in experienced engineers to develop local human capital.
He pointed out that there would be a transfer of advanced technology to Malaysia that would enhance the know-how of local people.
Lhoist director Mohd Sarthar Sulaiman said the company would hire local talents and give opportunities to local entrepreneurs.
Lhoist aims to reach a total production of 650,000 tonnes of lime from its quarries by 2016. The company will employ up to 350 people, including 60 in the Kuala Lumpur office.
“We’ll export 80% of our production to South-East Asia and India, with the remainder for local consumption,” Bruyere said.
He added that the company had already secured contracts within Asean to export 80% of its production.
Founded 125 years ago, Lhoist operates about 90 plants in over 25 countries and has a workforce of 6,000.