Celanese Poised for a Mexican Resurgence

For a long time, Celanese and Mexico have enjoyed a successful and rewarding relationship with almost 70 years of continued presence as one of Mexico’s most notable companies. It all started in 1945 when Celanese began manufacturing cellulose acetate yarn for the textile industry at Ocotlan, Jalisco. The 1950s and 1960s marked an important growth in the areas of synthetic and artificial fibers (e.g., nylon, rayon) as well as the plastic film industries (e.g., cellophane).  During the 1970s, Celanese Mexicana established a polyester manufacturing plant in Queretaro and started the production of acrylic esters at Cosoloeacaque. In 1982, the Cangrejera Chemical complex began operations, catapulting Celanese Mexicana into the role of the largest secondary chemicals and fibers producer in Mexico. It was also during this time that Celanese Mexicana became a major exporter with sales outside Mexico representing 37 percent of its production by volume. These goods were being shipped to the United States and Canada, Western Europe, North Africa, China and Hong Kong, and, in South America, to Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

In 1987, Celanese Corp. became Hoechst Celanese AG when the U.S.-based corporation was acquired by the German pharmaceuticals manufacturer Hoechst. In 1997, Hoechst spun off its Industrial Business as part of its strategy to concentrate in life sciences; as a result of this spinoff, Grupo Celanese became a fully-owned subsidiary of Celanese AG, exiting the polyester and nylon businesses and concentrating in its Chemical and Acetate divisions. This also brought a closer integration to the other Celanese operations, optimizing with this its manufacturing footprint and product portfolio, expanding the acetate operation and taking advantage of the economy of scale of the U.S .operations in other products.

Currently, Grupo Celanese has an acetate manufacturing site at Ocotlan, Jalisco, and a chemicals manufacturing site and a Maritime Terminal at Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Its products are used in a variety of industries such as paints and coatings, automotive, food, beverage, lubricants, filtration media, and textiles, and it continues to ship product solutions around the globe.

During the last 20 years, Mexico has committed to trade liberalization and global integration. Today, Mexico has free trade agreements signed with 44 countries which are, according to the Financial Times, twice as many as China and four times more than Brazil. Building on this is Mexico’s privileged geographical situation – neighbor to the world’s largest economy and a major export hub to the Asian, European and South American markets.

Beyond the trade efforts, the 21st century also marked an era of fiscal responsibility in Mexican public spending; this has contributed to Mexico achieving record levels of strategic reserves as well as remarkable currency stability. As a result, Mexico was able to ride the 2008 global economic crisis in relatively good shape compared to other Latin American countries, taking advantage of this major event to rationalize uncompetitive manufacturing technologies while modernizing the remaining manufacturing footprint.

This long-time continued commitment to trade liberalization and focus on fiscal responsibility has produced, as indicated in the chart below,  a growth in Mexico’s export USD levels of approximately 640% from 1993 to 2011 (i.e., from NAFTA until today).

Today, a combination of available skilled labor, modern technologies and unprecedented government reforms in key areas of public policy (e.g., labor, education, and telecom) are making Mexico a very attractive investment destination in sectors such as automotive, electronics, household goods, and aerospace.  As the Financial Times quoted in its September 19, 2012 article: “Today, Mexico exports more manufactured products than the rest of Latin America put together.”

However, despite this promising foundation, there is no question Mexico has serious issues to address in order to be able to grow beyond its current opportunities:  endemic corruption, security, and outdated energy policies – to name only a few.  However, as Celanese’s 68-year track record proves, a long, successful history is not the product of serendipity, but on the contrary, the result of an innovation-quality-customer focused driven workforce together operating in a country offering a business-friendly environment.

Figure 1. Mexico’s Merchandise Trade with All Countries


Source: Compiled by Congressional Research Service using data from Mexico’s Ministry of Economy and Global Trade Atlas. 

Into the future, the potential in Mexico is there. With a current customer base in Mexico across a range of industries – food products and ingredients, adhesives, coatings and paints, automotive solutions, and tobacco products – Celanese has a solid foundation for creating customer value and providing new chemistry solutions.  More importantly, Celanese can bring a broad knowledge base to support collaborations with our customers required to satisfy the technical demands that the industries coming to Mexico need.  The degree with which we are successful rising to this challenge will determine our success in Mexico for the next generation to come, as it has determined our success to date.


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About the author


Luis has been with Celanese for over 20 years, most of this time with the Acetate business. He is currently responsible for AI Sales in Mexico and Central America. When he is not selling Celanese products, he enjoys spending time at home, tackling home improvement projects and sharing time with the family.

There are 20 comments. Add yours.

  1. Frank Bekhuis says:

    I especially like some historical facts about our corporation. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Eric Alanis Kuhn says:

    I really like your overview about Celanese in Mexico, thanks for sharing. It makes us realize the importance and potential Mexico has in the world.

  3. Todd Elliott says:

    thanks Luis,
    there is significant investment planned for Mexico across multiple industries and Celanese is well positioned to grow with our current and future customers.

  4. Christian F. Pena says:

    Thanks Luis, for your remarkable comments about Celanese in Mexico, specially in Ocotlan were several changes has been performed to be part of this so competitive markets where Mexico has signed agreements.

  5. Miguel Hernández says:

    Very good story Luis. We must also recognize the great impact it has had Celanese throughout the region.

  6. Mayela Hernandez says:

    Luis, this is a great overview about the potential that Mexico has to offer, as well as the strengths that the country has delivered to Celanese. Thumbs up!

  7. Humberto Gonzalez says:

    Felicidades por tu redacccion veo que no has perdido el toque para ello. Un abrazo fraternal a ti y tu falimilia.
    Gracias por el historial.

  8. Alejandro Robledo says:

    Should Celanese consider the up-coming changes in the oil industry? besides the existing challenges which seen from a wider perspective are not really worst or better than those for other Countries in the Region economy keeps quite stable. Hopefully exposure to other economies will help the Country to improve even faster and take advantage of both its Geographical size and position together with human and natural resources. Good historical summary of Celanese in Mexico.

  9. Roberto Alvarado says:

    Es enriquecedor que la actual gente de Celanese sepa un poco del gran historial de la Compañía en este país, donde hubo hasta 12 centros de trabajo. Ojalá con las oportunidades actuales se volvieran abrir los horizontes hacia nuestro México.

  10. Ernesto Martínez says:

    Thanks Luis and well done. Is really good to show what means Celanese in México and what is México in Celanese to all the organization.

    As you and many others, I”m proud to make a little history in Celanese.
    Best regards.

  11. Ricardo Alderete says:

    Luis is good to hear about the potential in Mexico and how the company has grown here.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Jaime C. Hernández says:

    Luis de corazon te lo digo.
    Gracias por hacer de nuestro conocimiento el gran desarrollo de Celanese en mexico. se siente en esta breve historia el gran esfuerzo de tanta gente entregada, como tu. saludos

  13. Christian Arroyo says:

    Great explanation of the main elements related to potential in Mexico, but also the challenges as a Country. Thanks Luis!

  14. Rodrigo Zavala says:

    Luis, here in Ocotlan we are very proud that you began to work in Celanese and later was move to USA, but always remember very well the Celanse HIstory and continue support acetate business with your experience in technical and sales area., Thanks for you help, Regards

  15. Guillermo Torrijos says:

    Luis, is very satisfactory see that the culture and business values in the company, have not change but have been improved across the years. For people like me that worked for the company in those Gold years, see Celanese maintaining the philosophy and people enthusiasm that put Celanese Mexicana in a leading position for many dacades in México,, is very satisfactory. Congratulations from someone that has the “C” still recorded in the chest!

  16. Ken Van Der Wende says:

    Appreciate Luis sharing some of our CE history. Sometimes, as people and organizations change we lose it. I have worked in Mexico for many decades witnessing a great deal of change. The past decade has been remarkable, however, I think the next decade will witness even more growth – socially, politically and economically. It is a great country with a bright future. I am thrilled that CE agrees!!

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