* Eko Export's share price up over 40 times since 2009
* Sees benefits from potential partnership
* Gets most raw material supplies from Russia, Kazakhstan
By Marcin Goettig
WARSAW, April 10 A Polish company that turns
waste ash from coal-fired plants into a valuable raw material is
on the hunt for a U.S. investor to help it expand, although
Russia's stand-off with Ukraine may deter potential partners for
Eko Export processes so-called fly ash microspheres
found in coal ashes for use in special cements for oil and gas
drilling, spaceship coatings and even surfboards.
Shares in the company based in the southern city of
Bielsko-Biala have soared by over 40 times since 2009.
Zbigniew Bokun, Eko's founder and head of the family that
controls it, said the company's appeal had been boosted by a
February deal to deliver microspheres to U.S. oil exploration
Eko is now worth $147 million and is part of a market whose
total value is expected to grow to $5.2 billion by 2018,
according to research firm Marketsandmarkets.
"It would be easier for us if we had a large partner,"
Bokun told Reuters in an interview. "We are interested in a U.S.
He said there was strong demand for the company's product in
the United States.
But Eko stock has fallen about 7 percent this year due to
concerns that Western governments may impose economic sanctions
on Russia after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Eko imports about 60 percent of its raw materials from
Russia. Bokun said that, for now, the crisis had not affected
the company as it does not transport its products via Ukraine.
Bokun founded the company 30 years ago when Poland was still
under communist rule. His wife, daughter and son jointly hold a
controlling stake in the company.
The microspheres, also known as cenospheres, are tiny
spheres made mostly of silicon dioxide and filled with gas. They
are created naturally when ashes from coal-fired plants are
mixed with water.
Thanks to their light weight and heat-resistant properties,
cenospheres are also used in the construction sector and can be
found in automobiles and propellers.
Eko sold nearly a quarter of its output of 10,000 tonnes of
microspheres to the U.S. last year.
Bokun said the firm had a much greater production capacity
and could process 70,000 tonnes of microspheres per year.
The company sees its net profit almost doubling to 30.1
million zlotys ($9.98 million) in 2014, with revenue growing 66
percent to 65 million zlotys.
It aims to open a factory in June near Astana in Kazakhstan,
which will acquire the microspheres directly from the mixture of
ash and water flowing out of a local coal-fired plant.
The Kazakh factory, in which Eko owns a 51-percent stake, is
expected to produce between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of
microspheres per year, which could allow it to more than double
($1 = 3.0159 Polish Zlotys)
(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)