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Business Concentrates

September 20, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 38

Thermo Electron, Accelrys in deals to expand informatics

Two firms have announced acquisitions that expand their informatics offerings for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Instrument manufacturer Thermo Electron is acquiring InnaPhase, a supplier of laboratory information management systems for pharmaceutical and biotechnology customers, for approximately $65 million. Thermo plans to integrate InnaPhase software into its current informatics line, which is aimed at analytical laboratories. According to Thermo, the move will benefit customers interested in informatics for proteomics and ADME/Tox (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity) applications. Meanwhile, Accelrys, a supplier of computational and simulation software for chemistry and biology research, has agreed to acquire SciTegic, a data and workflow management software firm, for $21.5 million. Accelrys CEO Mark Emkjer says his firm has 10 times as many users as SciTegic and that a joint marketing push will promote SciTegic's Pipeline Pilot software to Accelrys customers. Accelrys became a stand-alone company earlier this year when it split from Pharmacopeia.

Goodyear cuts employment

To reduce costs, Goodyear Tire & Rubber will cut 340 positions in two businesses by the end of the third quarter of 2005. Goodyear's chemical operation, which makes synthetic rubber, antioxidants, latex, and adhesive resins, will lose 100 jobs. The rest of the job reductions will occur in the engineered products business, which makes industrial hosing, conveyor belts, automotive hosing, and molded products. As a result, the firm plans to take a charge against earnings of up to $35.5 million in the third quarter of this year. Goodyear recently took its chemical business off the selling block.

Fuller lowers earnings outlook

Rapidly rising raw material costs and high expenses for bad debt and legal settlements have taken their toll on H.B. Fuller. The adhesives maker says it will report income of 32 to 34 cents per share for the quarter ending Aug. 28. Analysts were expecting earnings of about 42 cents. Fuller had promised investors that price increases will yield better results in the next quarter. But because of continued volatile raw material prices, the firm says net income for fiscal 2004 will be lower than the $1.54 per share analysts were expecting.

Westlake plans vinyl restart

Westlake Chemical is restarting the Geismar, La., vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride units it purchased in 2002 from Borden Chemicals & Plastics. The start-up of the units, each with capacity for 600 million lb per year, will occur in two phases. Recommissioning of a 300 million-lb PVC train will occur next year. Timing of the second phase will depend on market conditions. In addition, Westlake is planning a 25% expansion of the ethylene dichloride unit at the site, which it has been running since late 2003. The company says the PVC will be destined for the merchant market and for three PVC pipe plants it purchased from Bristolpipe last month. Westlake also began trading on the New York Stock Exchange last month.

Roche, PDL update pact

Following recent positive data from Phase II trials, Roche and Protein Design Labs have formed a worldwide agreement to codevelop and commercialize Zenapax (daclizumab) for asthma and related diseases. Under the agreement, PDL will receive a $17.5 million up-front payment as well as up to $187.5 million in milestone payments. Roche bought rights to the antibody drug from PDL in 1989 and commercialized it for transplantation. Roche resold rights for all other markets to PDL in October 2003.

Segway uses BASF nylon


Segway, developer of the Segway Human Transporter, and plastics molder C&J Industries have specified BASF's Ultramid brand nylon 6 as the material of choice for the machine's wheels. Ron Reich, Segway's director of mechanical design engineering, says the BASF plastic offers durability, strength, and impact resistance along with the ability to be custom colored. GE Plastics said in 2002 that Segway was using its Lexan SLX polymer in the machine's fenders.

Pfizer smiles on Ireland

Pfizer will spend $264 million to expand its Dún Laoghaire plant in Dublin. The project, which is supported by IDA Ireland, the Irish government's foreign investment agency, is expected to more than double staff at the facility by adding as many as 200 new jobs. Scheduled for completion in 2008, the expansion will increase the company's sterile-manufacturing and freeze-drying capability. Details on IDA's contribution were not released.

Kerr-McGee sets TiO2 closure

Kerr-McGee Chemical will end sulfate process-based titanium dioxide production at its Savannah, Ga., plant by the end of the month. The site's workforce of 410 will be reduced by about 100 positions, and the firm's global titanium dioxide output will drop by about 4%. The company expects to take an after-tax charge of up to $85 million related to the shutdowns but says the move will improve operating profit by about $15 million annually. Kerr-McGee will still employ the sulfate process in Uerdingen, Germany. "Growth in the pigment industry is in the chloride-process grades, with sulfate-process grades fulfilling specialty needs," says Tom Adams, manager of the pigments division.

DuPont tests security gear

The U.S. government has awarded DuPont two grants to develop soldier and firefighter uniforms that are resistant to chemical and biological agents. The U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., awarded DuPont $1.5 million for the military application of the technology. And the Department of Homeland Security has awarded North Carolina State University and DuPont $830,000 to develop the technology in the next generation of firefighter gear. The suits incorporate fire-resistant Nomex and Kevlar fabric as well as a selective permeable membrane developed to protect against industrial chemicals and military warfare agents.

Rohm and Haas in high-k pact

Rohm and Haas and South Korea's UP Chemical say they have commercialized aluminum and hafnium precursors for the production of high-k dielectric films. Rohm and Haas says its electronic materials unit is using UP technology to make the high-k grade products. The agreement builds on a 1998 investment that established Rohm and Haas as the supplier of UP technology to markets outside of Korea. High-k materials are increasingly being used in semiconductors to insulate the gate, which turns current flow on and off, from the channel through which the current flows.

Price rise continues

U.S. chemical prices continued their upward climb in August, according to Labor Department data. The producer price index for chemicals and allied products increased 1.8% from July and 9.1% from August 2003 to 175.9 (1982 = 100). The industrial chemical segment showed strong price performance spurred by basic organics. The index for industrial chemicals was 167.9, up 5.7% from July and 19.5% from the comparable month last year. For the basic organic chemicals subsector, prices rose 6.9% from the previous month and 24.9% from August 2003 to an index of 180.8.

Akzo Nobel ups goal for China

Akzo Nobel will double its sales in China in the next five years, says CEO Hans Wijers, who made the prediction as he announced the establishment of a new regional head office in Shanghai. According to Wijers, "We more than doubled our sales in China in less than five years," reaching $484 million last year, "and our ambition is to repeat that." The company's coatings business makes up 63% of its activities in China, followed by chemicals at 28% of sales and pharmaceuticals at 9%. Akzo Nobel says nearly 70% of all its goods produced in China are sold in the country itself.

LG is making plasma filters

LG Chem has begun production of filters for plasma display panels at its electronic materials plant in South Korea's Ochang Technical Park. The plant's initial capacity is for 720,000 units per year, but LG is planning to increase production to 1.8 million units next year. The company says the market for plasma display filters is growing 50% annually. Despite being a newcomer, LG intends to secure by 2008 a 35% share of that market. LG already produces filters for liquid-crystal displays.

Mitsui sees a loss following write-down

Mitsui Chemicals expects to declare a net loss of $64 million, instead of the $55 million net profit it had anticipated, in the first half of the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005. Mitsui's shares rose after the announcement because the company also revised its forecast for first-half operating profit, increasing it by 14%. The loss will result from a write-down of the value of some of Mitsui's assets. Local reports say the major asset is land that Mitsui bought in Aichi prefecture, Japan. Mitsui regularly makes large revisions to its forecasts. In 2002, it announced a $100 million extraordinary gain on the sale of securities. Before its full-year earning announcement last year, it lowered its net profit forecast by $73 million. In 1999, it announced a $95 million special loss when an affiliate's investment in a golf business did not work out.


Peptisyntha, a contract maker of peptide-based drugs owned by Solvay, is adding two current Good Manufacturing Practices suites for large-scale peptide manufacture. The addition, which is in Torrance, Calif., should be complete by March 2005.

Ferro Corp. says a completed investigation confirms earlier findings of improper accounting in its polymer additives business (C&EN, Aug. 2, page 13). The firm says it will take an after-tax charge of $6.4 million, rather than the $4.2 million it previously anticipated.

DyStar, the textile dyes business that was acquired by Platinum Equity last month, has named Clemens Willée as CEO. Willée was previously responsible for marketing, sales, e-commerce, and the Asia region. He succeeds Alfred X. Rad, who is retiring for health reasons.

Almatis, the former Alcoa specialty chemicals business, has appointed D. Oscar Groomes as CEO. Groomes comes to Almatis from General Electric, where he was in charge of strategic projects and programs.

Cyclics Corp. has finalized a $68 million financing package for working capital and the completion of its 2,500-metric-ton-per-year cyclic butylene terephthalate resin plant in Schwarzheide, Germany. The company says the unit will be complete by the end of this year.

Kemira has reorganized its GrowHow fertilizer business into two units: crop cultivation and industrial solutions. The change is in anticipation of the launch of the fertilizer business on the stock market, which Kemira says could be carried out this fall.

Joseph B. Eisenberg, a former Crompton Corp. executive, has pleaded guilty to fixing prices for rubber chemicals. The Justice Department says Eisenberg is the first executive to plead guilty in the case, which has been ongoing since last year.


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