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Business Concentrates

January 5, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 1

SABIC to grow with new ethylene cracker in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) plans to build a new 1.3 million-metric-ton-per-year ethylene cracker in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. In addition to the cracker, SABIC is building an 800,000-metric-ton polyethylene plant, a 700,000-metric-ton ethylene glycol unit, and a 350,000-metric-ton polypropylene plant. The projects are expected to go onstream in 2007. The cracker isn't the only one SABIC has in the works. Late last year, SABIC began construction on Jubail United Petrochemical, a 1 million-metric-ton ethylene cracker with 575,000 metric tons of ethylene glycol and 150,000 metric tons of linear a-olefins, due onstream by the end of 2004 in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. In October, SABIC announced that it would build a second, 625,000-metric-ton, ethylene glycol plant at that facility by 2006. SABIC's short-term goal is to become one of the top 10 petrochemical companies in the world.

BASF, Akzo in chelates pact

Akzo Nobel and BASF are forming a 50-50 joint venture that will own and operate Akzo Nobel's recently upgraded chelating agent facility in Lima, Ohio. The partners will continue to sell and market the chelates separately, and "firewalls will ensure complete confidentiality of business and competitive information," the firms say. Following formation of the venture, expected on Feb. 1, BASF will terminate a toll manufacturing agreement under which Syngenta makes chelates in St. Gabriel, La. BASF will also idle its own chelates capacity in Clear Lake, Texas, during the first half of the year and reduce imports from Germany. BASF says its small chelates facility in Appleton, Wis., will be unaffected.

Rohm and Haas studies tumors among workers

Rohm and Haas will release results later this month of a study into the causes of brain tumors among employees at its Spring House, Pa., research facility. The study was initiated in June 2002 to investigate 10 brain tumor cases known among the 6,000 chemists, lab technicians, and support staff who have worked at the facility in its 40-year history. The company says such prevalence is about twice what would be expected in the general U.S. population.

Price-fixing eyed again

Crompton says it is under investigation for alleged fixing of nitrile rubber prices. Along with competitors, the company is already being investigated for alleged anticompetitive practices regarding ethylene-propylene-diene rubber, plastics additives, and rubber chemicals. For the nitrile rubber investigation, Crompton says it has received conditional amnesty from U.S., Canadian, and European Union investigators in return for its cooperation. It has similar arrangements in the EPDM and plastics additives cases. In 2001, Crompton sold its 50% interest in nitrile maker ParaTec to its partner, Mexico's Girsa. Nitrile makers Bayer and Zeon Chemicals say they have been cooperating with authorities. Another producer, DSM, couldn't be reached for comment at press time.


Better viewing with acrylics

The world's largest cylinder aquarium--AquaDom--has opened in the atrium of a new leisure and retail center in Berlin. Acrylics producer Lucite International provided the high-performance materials used to construct the aquarium's 41 acrylic panels. The aquarium holds 264,000 gal of saltwater and is stocked with 2,500 fish. Visitors ascend inside a column surrounded by water as they ride a glass elevator through the center of the aquarium.

AstraZeneca, Array link up

Array BioPharma and AstraZeneca are joining to develop a range of Array's oncology drug candidates. Under the deal, Array will receive an up-front payment of $10 million, research funding, potential development milestones of more than $85 million, and royalties on sales. AstraZeneca will receive exclusive worldwide rights to Array's ARRY-142886 and certain second-generation compounds. Array plans to file an Investigational New Drug Application and initiate Phase I clinical trials for 142886, an MEK inhibitor, this year.

Lubrizol to buy additives

Lubrizol has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the inks and coatings additives business of Avecia. Included in the transaction, expected to close in the first quarter, are a plant in Huddersfield, U.K., and technical centers in the U.K., Singapore, and Charlotte, N.C. The business has annual revenues of $50 million. Lubrizol has $100 million in existing coatings and inks additives sales and says the combination will increase its ability to address customers' formulating needs.

DSM to shed Roche jobs

Following its purchase of Roche's vitamins and fine chemicals business in October, DSM has finalized plans to trim some 290 jobs at the former Roche site in Grenzach, Germany. DSM says it is adjusting output in view of overcapacity for a number of products and competitive pressure from producers in China, South Korea, and India. Job cuts and work-process simplifications are needed, the company adds, to underpin the competitive stance of the site.

PPD buys Lilly drug patents

PPD will acquire patents from Eli Lilly for dapoxetine, a compound under development for treatment of genitourinary disorders, for $65 million in cash. PPD developed the compound through Phase II clinical trials under a 1998 licensing agreement with Lilly. Dapoxetine was sublicensed in 2001 to Alza, a drug delivery technology firm owned by Johnson & Johnson, for Phase III trials, manufacturing, and marketing. Under the new agreement, PPD will pay Lilly an undisclosed royalty on sales of dapoxetine. PPD will also receive royalty and milestone payments from Alza. Dapoxetine is currently in Phase III trials for treating premature ejaculation.

Prices rise in November

U.S. chemical prices rose in November, according to the latest data from the Labor Department. The producer price index for chemicals and allied products was 162.2 (1982 = 100), up 0.2% from October and 3.8% from November 2002. The index for industrial chemicals slipped less than 0.1% to 140.7 in November from the previous month. However, it increased 5.3% from its year-earlier level.

Atofina deals in Mexico

Atofina is selling its 43% interest in Mexichem to its partner, Mexico's Grupo Industrial Camesa (Gicsa). Mexichem has annual sales of $185 million and employs 1,000 people at nine Mexican plants making chlor-alkali, hydrochloric acid, potassium chlorate, and polyvinyl chloride. The firm was formed through the 1998 merger of Gicsa's Química Pennwalt and Atofina's Polímeros de México. Atofina is also buying out Gicsa's 49% stake in organic peroxides maker Atofina Peroxidos.

Drugs made in plants advance

Two new deals are advancing the manufacture of pharmaceuticals in plants. SemBioSys Genetics will use its safflower-based biotechnology to develop plant-derived docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for Martek Biosciences. Marteck currently makes DHA, a baby formula supplement, via microbial fermentation. SemBioSys will receive up to $10 million in research and milestone payments plus royalties on product sales. Separately, DFB Pharmaceuticals has acquired Phyton, a developer of plant cell fermentation techniques. Phyton currently manufactures the cancer treatment paclitaxel.

LG supplies Taiwanese firm

LG Chem has agreed to supply polarizing film to Dyma System Taiwan, which will in turn produce finished polarizers in a plant that is scheduled to open in April. Polarizers are a key component of thin-film transistor liquid-crystal displays (TFT-LCDs). South Korea-based LG Chem is one of four polarizer manufacturers worldwide; the other three are Japanese. LG expects that the Dyma deal will enable it to capture 30% of the Taiwanese polarizer market, where its share is now only 2%. Taiwan, where many TFT-LCD-based devices are produced, accounts for 30% of the global polarizer market.

Bayer boosts MDI, aniline

Bayer will expand capacity for urethane raw material methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) in Baytown, Texas, and Tarragona, Spain, by 2006. Baytown's capacity will increase 30% to 300,000 metric tons, and Tarragona's will rise 50% to 150,000 metric tons. Overall, Bayer's worldwide MDI capacity of about 800,000 metric tons will be boosted to 920,000 metric tons. Production of aniline, an MDI feedstock, will be increased in Antwerp, Belgium. The expansions accompany Bayer's recently announced plans to expand MDI capacity in Caojing, China in a two-stage project (C&EN, Nov. 17, 2003, page 19).

Norsk Hydro shapes lineup

Norsk Hydro will sell 80.1% of its Pronova Biocare subsidiary to Norway's Ferd for $24.4 million. Pronova specializes in marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids for pharmaceutical and consumer product use. The sale is part of Norsk Hydro's plan to focus on core activities. As part of that strategy, the company is also spinning off its fertilizers unit through an initial public offering planned for the Oslo stock exchange in March 2004. The unit, Hydro Agri, will take the name Yara upon demerger.


DuPont will expand capacity for ethylene vinyl acetate and adhesive resins at its plant in Antwerp, Belgium. The company says the project will be complete in early 2004 following conversion of a linear low-density tubular reactor.

PetroChina subsidiary Liaoyang Petrochemical has hired UOP to supply technology, basic engineering, and equipment for a 350,000-metric-ton-per-year p-xylene plant. The unit, the company's second, is scheduled to open in 2006.

Kemira has acquired Akzo Nobel's general industrial liquid coatings business in Hungary. Kemira will integrate the operations, which had 2002 sales of about $1.5 million, into its own Tikkurila Coatings division.

Basell is building a 60,000-metric-ton-per-year polypropylene compounding plant in Suzhou Industrial Park, China. Basell says the plant will strengthen the company's presence in the automotive, appliance, and industrial sectors when it opens in early 2005.

InnoCentive, the website where companies can post their tough R&D problems, recently sponsored its first "virtual scientific competition," in cooperation with Moscow State University's chemistry department. More than 500 young scientists from Russia, as well as Russian students elsewhere, participated.

Tenneco Automotive, a maker of car exhaust and shock absorber systems, has entered a licensing agreement with DuPont to develop a line of retail car wash, wax, and cleaning products incorporating both the DuPont name and its Teflon brand.

Rhodia has concluded a debt-refinancing agreement with its 23 creditor banks. The company says it is continuing discussions to defer repayment of a $290 million loan from private U.S. investors.



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