If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Business Concentrates

August 9, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 32

Nano firms prefer small steps

Nanotechnology companies are finding success with smaller rather than bigger business leaps. Citing adverse market conditions, Nanosys has withdrawn its plans for an initial public offering of about $100 million in stock. The IPO was being watched as a gauge of investor sentiment for nanotechnology. Nanosys, which has collaborations with Intel, Eastman Kodak, DuPont, and others, has developed processes to synthesize inorganic semiconductor nanostructures, but it has no commercial products. Taking smaller steps is start-up QuantumSphere, which is opening a facility in Costa Mesa, Calif., where it will manufacture a projected 2,500 lb of nanoaluminum and nanonickel powders per month for aerospace, defense, and energy applications such as propellants and munitions. This is step two after the company's proof-of-concept reactor produced high-purity aluminum and zinc oxide nanoparticles for surface applications. And NanoSonic, a Virginia Tech spin-off, has signed a collaboration agreement with Lockheed Martin aimed at materials and coatings. NanoSonic's technology of interest, electrostatic self-assembly, was developed by Virginia Tech physicist Richard O. Claus, who is also president of the company. The technology permits multiple nanocluster layers of material to be deposited on a charged substrate. A recent NanoSonic development is Metal Rubber, which is both stretchy and conducting.

NIH won't act on Abbott drug

NIH has decided not to initiate proceedings against Abbott Laboratories in response to the firm's 400% price increase on Norvir (ritonavir), an AIDS drug developed partly with NIH money. NIH weighed the action in response to a petition by Essential Inventions (C&EN, May 31, page 6). The consumer group wanted NIH to invoke a provision of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act that would have forced Abbott to license the drug to generic drug firms. NIH concluded that Abbott met its obligations under the law and that the issue of drug pricing is best left up to Congress.

Dow switches horses on IT

Dow Chemical has switched vendors for a $1.1 billion voice-over-Internet communications system, signing a seven-year contract with IBM. Dow terminated a similar deal with EDS, signed three years ago, after the computer service firm reportedly missed milestones on a contract. IBM's pact with Dow includes support for local area networks, wide area networks, voice, video, and e-enabled conference rooms. The agreement entails support for 2,800 servers in 63 countries and e-mail service for 50,000 Dow employees. EDS reports it has absorbed $229 million in charges on contracts in the first half of this year.

BASF sees improvement ...

BASF microcapsules, 2 to 20 µm in diameter, can help keep room temperature comfortable.
BASF microcapsules, 2 to 20 µm in diameter, can help keep room temperature comfortable.

BASF Chairman Jürgen Hambrecht gave an optimistic outlook in presenting his firm's second-quarter results last week. The German giant's income from operations before special items climbed 44% to $1.4 billion, compared with the same period last year, on a 13% increase in sales to almost $11.2 billion. Hambrecht was bullish in his view of the second half, saying that he expects high demand to continue, coming mostly from Asia and North America. "The longest and deepest economic downturn of past decades is--hopefully--behind us," he said. The company continues to be concerned about high raw material costs. Last week, it threatened to turn away customers if it can't adequately raise prices on products based on benzene, which has more than doubled in price since the beginning of the year.

... while Rhodia posts a profit

Financially beleaguered Rhodia recorded net profits of just over $50 million for the second quarter, compared with a net loss of roughly $106 million for the same quarter in 2003. Sales at the company were virtually unchanged from second-quarter 2003, at about $1.7 billion. The company was particularly relieved by the significant reduction--of some $756 million--in its total debt during the quarter, thanks to divestitures and refinancing.

Eastman closes deal, licenses

Eastman is licensing its acetyls coproduction technology to Saudi International Petrochemical Co. (Sipchem), which intends to build acetic acid and vinyl acetate plants in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia, by 2008. The plant will have a combined capacity of 460,000 metric tons per year of acetic acid and acetic anhydride. Eastman will market the unit's acetic anhydride, largely in Asia. Sipchem intends to license the vinyl acetate technology from another company. Separately, Eastman has completed the $215 million sale of businesses from its coatings, adhesives, specialty polymers, and inks unit to Apollo Management. Out of these businesses, Apollo intends to form a company called Resolution Specialty Materials. Apollo already owns epoxy resins maker Resolution Performance Products.

BASF debuts novel building material

BASF is launching a microencapsulation technology designed for interior building materials such as gypsum board and intended to cut energy costs and increase room comfort. The acrylic capsules, sold as Micronal, are filled with wax that melts at 78.5 °F. When used in building materials, the capsules absorb room heat as interior temperatures start to climb above the wax's melting point. They release the heat when the temperature falls. BASF says the thermal capacity of a 0.5-inch-thick plaster barrier filled with 30% Micronal is about equivalent to that of a 6-inch brick wall.

Shell sticks by Singapore

Shell Chemicals says it may go it alone on an ethylene complex in Singapore now that Sumitomo Chemical, its partner in the proposed project, has shelved it in favor of building a petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia with Saudi Aramco. At a press conference in New York City, Shell Executive Vice President Fran Keeth said construction in Singapore would likely start after Shell's cracker joint venture in Nanhai, China, with China National Offshore Oil Corp. is completed late next year. "We are looking at the economics of 100% ownership, but we are also looking at other partners to bring in," she said.

Engelhard buys personal care materials firm

Engelhard has acquired the Collaborative Group, a manufacturer of botanical extracts, antioxidants, and liposome delivery systems used in skin moisturizers, sunscreens, and antiwrinkle creams. For Engelhard, the deal marks an expansion into the growing market for personal care raw materials. It includes manufacturing and R&D facilities in Stony Brook and East Setauket, N.Y., that house more than 100 employees. Engelhard says it will leverage distribution channels already set up for its line of color-enhancing pigments and inorganic materials.

Chemical demand increases

U.S. chemical shipments continued to rise in June, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Commerce Department. Demand for all chemicals rose 0.3% from May and was up 13.5% from June of last year. Meanwhile, inventories increased 0.2% from the previous month and were up 6.6% from a year earlier. Excluding pharmaceuticals, shipments for the rest of the chemical industry rose 0.2% from May and 15.7% from June a year ago, while inventories were up 0.3% month-to-month, but down 0.1% from the comparable month in 2003. Thus, the inventories-to-shipments ratio of 1.34 for all chemicals in June was up from 1.33 in May, but well down from 1.42 12 months earlier. Excluding drugs, the ratio was unchanged from May at 1.00, but down from 1.16 last June.

Rohm and Haas studies biomass, invests in fund

Rohm and Haas is receiving a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a new generation of adhesives and sealants derived from renewable materials. Over the next two years, Principal Investigator Thomas Kauffman will work with researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Eastman Chemical, and USDA to substitute sugars, soybean oil, castor oil, and other biomass sources for traditional petrochemical raw materials. Rohm and Haas also sees potential applications for biomass technology in elastomers and foams. Separately, the firm has invested $5 million in Innovation Ventures, a newly established venture-capital firm targeting companies focused on specialty chemicals and materials, electronic materials, nanotechnology, and industrial biotechnology.

Merck deals in oncology, Alzheimer's

Merck and Pierre Fabre Médicament have signed a three-year contract to move monoclonal antibody F50035 into clinical development. Discovered by Pierre Fabre, the antibody targets a receptor that is overexpressed in tumor cells and may offer an immunotherapeutic approach to cancer. Merck will be responsible for manufacturing the antibody as well as related ones. It gets worldwide marketing rights, and Pierre Fabre retains exclusive rights to France and French-speaking countries. Meanwhile, Merck and Celera Diagnostics have begun to collaborate to find drug targets and biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease. Merck has agreed to make milestone payments to Celera Diagnostics as well as pay royalties on sales generated from the joint effort.

Akzo and MG complete sales

Akzo Nobel has completed the sale of its catalysts and phosphorus chemicals businesses to Albemarle and Ripplewood Holdings, respectively. The deals netted Akzo Nobel just over $1 billion, which it will use to reduce corporate debt. Separately, MG Technologies has completed the sale of four Dynamit Nobel businesses to Rockwood Specialties for about $2.7 billion. The four are CeramTec advanced ceramics, Chemetall surface-treatment chemicals, Sachtleben titanium dioxide, and DNES custom synthesis operations.


Cyro Industries, the acrylics venture of Degussa and Cytec Industries, will move its R&D and technical operations from Orange, Conn., to plants in Sanford, Maine, and Wallingford, Conn. The firm says the move will streamline new product development.

Avecia and Sigma-Aldrich will develop and commercialize new products based on Avecia's Pd EnCat encapsulated palladium catalyst technology. Sigma-Aldrich will handle worldwide distribution of the catalysts, used in the field of supported reagents and catalysts.

EaglePicher Pharmaceutical Services has opened a current Good Manufacturing Practices facility for making active pharmaceutical ingredients at its Harrisonville, Mo., site. The new suite has two 300-gal reactors and one 100-gal reactor.

Mitsui Chemicals will nearly double its capacity for methylpentane polymer in Iwakuni-Ohtake, Japan, to 13,000 metric tons annually next year. The company says applications in electronics and industrial materials are driving demand for the heat-resistant plastic.

National Petrochemical Co. of Iran has licensed Basell's Lupotech T process for a 300,000-metric-ton-per-year low-density polyethylene plant planned for Bandar Imam, Iran. Basell says the license is its ninth to the Iranian firm in the past seven years.

Transkaryotic Therapies and Lonza have signed an agreement under which Lonza will make TKT's gene-activated erythropoietin product, Dynepo, at its facility in Slough, England. TKT expects to launch Dynepo in Europe by early 2006.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.