TOKYO — Changes are coming at two of Japan’s top makers of synthetic fibers.

Toray Industries Inc. has decided to boost its polyester fiber production in China in two years, while Asahi Kasei Corp. is withdrawing from acrylic fiber production entirely next year.

Toray said it will increase the polyester filament production capacity at its wholly owned Chinese subsidiary, Toray Fibers (Nantong) Co., based in Nantong, by 44 million pounds per year to 121 million pounds in 2004.

The Chinese demand for polyester filament has grown by more than 15 percent annually since the China-based company was established in 1995, Toray said, adding that Chinese fiber buyers have been demanding higher quality and a wider variety of products.

Asahi, meanwhile, said it will stop producing acrylic staple and filament in March 2003. In the fiscal year ended March 2002, the company produced 156 million pounds of acrylic fiber worth $125 million. (Currency figures converted from the Japanese yen at current exchange rates.)

Kazumoto Yamamoto, president of Asahi, said the company, in its ultimately unsuccessful effort to put the acrylic fiber business back on a profitable path, took steps that included introducing new varieties of acrylic fiber, streamlining production and marketing and reducing personnel.

The decision was made in line with Asahi’s new long-term management plan, which emphasizes selection and concentration of businesses, Yamamoto said. He added the company will concentrate its resources on spandex, nonwoven fabrics and other textile businesses in which the company is competitive.

Asahi, for the moment, is Japan’s second-largest acrylic fiber producer next to Mitsubishi Rayon Co., which has an annual production capacity of 286 million pounds.

Toray said it expects China’s man-made fiber market to see further growth and development as a result of the country’s entry in the World Trade Organization, adding the company is strengthening its ties with local Chinese apparel factories to expand its base of textile business in China.

The Toray subsidiary, which produces 143 million pounds of polyester chips in addition to the 77.1 million pounds of polyester filament, employs 409 people.

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