It was announced in October that the Messer group had signed a contract with the Vietnamese Hoa Phat Group to construct an air separation and gas liquefier unit in the country, a move that could be the first of many as the company looks to build upon the potential offered in the region.

Messer has been active in Vietnam for 10 years with 2 companies in the country, an has already announced plans to build an air separation plant in central Vietnam with Shinimex, a subsidiary of the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (Vinashin).

Speaking exclusively to gasworld, Tony Rivera – general manager of Messer in Vietnam – explained these plans, “The air separation plant in central Vietnam is expected to be on line in the end of the first quarter of 2009. The first dry dock of the Dung Quat Shipyard will go on full production during this time and the demand for oxygen will increase substantially.”

The contract with the Hoa Phat Group, signed on 25th October, represents a strategic investment in the country and the expectedly dynamic North Vietnam economy. Rivera affirms this as he says, “Messer considers this area as important for future development. Haiphong continues to be the major port of the northern area. The northern area is also rich in mineral resources like iron ore and other non-ferrous metal ores. It is also very near to China. These and other factors make the north one of the fastest growing regions in Vietnam.”

Such investments also signify Messer’s belief and keen interest in the broader South Pacific Rim region, a market thought to have experienced gas revenue increases of 10% in 2006. Messer clearly believes this is a market that will continue to flourish and is capable of further development, identifying it as a core region.

“Yes the gas demand in the area is expected to continue to grow. There is still much room for development in the region. For example, in Vietnam alone the per capita consumption of steel is less than 0.1 tpy. This is a very low figure compared to developed countries. Then you have countries like Cambodia and Laos that are not yet even at par with Vietnam when it comes to economic development,” Rivera explained.

Messer’s 2 company interests in the region are Messer Vietnam Industrial Gases and Messer Haiphong Industrial Gases, a joint venture with Shinimex in which the German company has a share of around two thirds.