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Albemarle to Buy Akzo Nobel Catalyst Unit

by Alexander H. Tullo
April 26, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 17

  Albemarle has agreed to purchase Akzo Nobel’s petroleum refining catalyst business for nearly $750 million. Albemarle CEO Mark C. Rohr says he is “pumped” at the prospect of combining the business with Albemarle’s existing polyolefin catalyst unit to form a $500 million-per-year powerhouse.

Akzo Nobel’s refining catalyst business generated sales of $420 million, plus $160 million from three joint ventures, in 2003. According to its own figures, Akzo is tied with W.R. Grace for the leading position in the $2 billion refining catalyst industry, followed by Royal Dutch/Shell’s Criterion Catalysts & Technologies and Engelhard.

Albemarle sees growth potential in Akzo Nobel’s hydroprocessing catalysts (HPCs). Upcoming regulations in the U.S., Japan, and Europe will require drastic reductions in the sulfur content of diesel fuel and gasoline, in turn requiring greater use of HPCs. Albemarle says this $900 million-per-year market—in which Akzo Nobel has a 32% share—is growing at a 4 to 5% annual clip.

Moreover, Rohr contends that the Akzo HPC business also has a technology edge, including a new platform of catalysts that have twice the activity of conventional catalysts. “Generally speaking, Akzo has been on the cutting edge of developing new catalysts,” he says.

Akzo Nobel put the catalyst business on the block last September along with its coating resins and phosphorus chemicals units. The companies expect the refining catalyst deal to close in the second quarter, pending clearance from antitrust authorities and Akzo Nobel’s Works Council.


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