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Tony HOO, MASTERPAC president interviewed by IRN. July 2010

   Tony Hoo takes great pride in his new,beautifully decorated head office and factory. He likes the fact that it looks good,but more to the point, it’s a calculated response to a changing China; “People move a lot now, and we are trying to keep a stable team. I want the staff to have a good environment.”

   The Hefei facility, located a few hours west of Shanghai, is also a response to a big change at the company, since it is the focal point for the new‘quality, professional’ brand of light construction equipment, Masterpac, that Mr Hoo, who is president and founder of the company, has been promoting for the last two years.

   Before the launch of Masterpac, Mr Hoo’s business focused on manufacturing for western OEMs and for producing an economy range of equipment,branded Masalta. This is sold mainly in Europe andAustralia to end users through builders merchants.

   With Masterpac, the idea is to target professional users, dealers and rental companies with a range that offers what Mr Hoo describes as “the best quality/cost ratio machines, competing with the leading European brands.” The Masalta models are still built – at other locations in China – but it is in Masterpac that Mr Hoo sees the long term future of the company.

   In support of the strategy Mr Hoo has invested both in China and in Europe. It already has a research and development and service centre in Germany and in China, and has just made some big appointments in Europe, opening a new sales and marketing office in Paris, France, earlier this year. It is run by ex-Dynapac employee Nathalie Nguyen, and another new recruit is ex-Dynapac veteran Pierre Grandsagne, in a European sales role.

   For Mr Hoo, the focus now – after a difficult 2009 in which its sales went down 45% from a US$17 million peak in 2007/8 - is to continue to expand the product range. Already available are tampers, plate compactors, tandem rollers and concrete finishing and cutting products.

 “Our strength is that we offer a wide range of equipment, and we have already done a lot, but we still have to expand”, he says. Ride-one rollers are on the agenda – 1 t, 1.5 t and 2.0 t models – and should be ready by 2011, and it will have hydraulic breakers by the end of this year. These are being built under licence to a European design.

Also on the cards is a 800 kg plate compactor (the heaviest so far has been a 650 kg model), concrete pokers and a 20 inch concrete floor saw.

 “The strategy so far has been to focus on light equipment”, says Mr Hoo “Two tonnes could be the maximum size for us.”

  Masterpac is open to alliances with other OEMs as a way of expanding its product range, but it is also willing to work very closely with rental companies. For example, it is currently discussing a possible arrangement with a significant European rental firm under which the equipment would carry the rental company’s brand.

 “It's an important step for us, to get their approval”, he says, “It means our quality being accepted by a top company”

   He says the feedback from the market has been positive, although last year saw fewer orders,“Since the start of the year we have seen more positive signals”, he says.

   Another part of the strategy is to start looking for business in China. This won't  be easy, says Mr Hoo, since the light compaction tools used in China are of a quite different design, and much cheaper – built by dozens of local suppliers.

   Masterpac will compete in the 10-20% of the Chinese light equipment market that Mr Hoo estimates is available to foreign products, and has started to appoint Chinese dealers.

   Over the short term, however, it is the export market that will pay the bills. “The good news is that we can start to see a recovery”, says Mr Hoo, “We have seen a 20% increase in the first five months of the year.” Expect a warm welcome, and a feast for the eyes, if you make the trip to Hefei.



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