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Business Concentrates

October 4, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 40


Degussa and Headwaters plan new route to hydrogen peroxide

Degussa and the U.S. technology firm Headwaters are forming a 50-50 joint venture to commercialize a direct-synthesis process for making hydrogen peroxide from oxygen and hydrogen. The partners say they will invest in "mega facilities" producing hydrogen peroxide for intermediates such as propylene oxide (PO). Degussa, already a major peroxide producer via the multistep anthraquinone process, says the heretofore unachievable direct-reaction process will be made possible with NxCat, Headwaters' heterogeneous precious-metal "nanocatalyst." The partners will optimize the process at a Degussa pilot plant in Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany, and hope to be commercial by 2008. The direct route will yield peroxide dissolved in low concentrations of methanol and thus won't be suitable for paper bleaching, the chemical's main use, Degussa says. Making PO directly from hydrogen peroxide and propylene is also a new approach; the polyurethane raw material is now made via various multistep routes. Last month, Dow Chemical and BASF announced they were moving ahead on a direct-reaction PO plant in Antwerp, Belgium, that would be based on anthraquinone-route peroxide supplied by Solvay. Solvay contends that direct-reaction peroxide is still "many years" away from commercialization. Degussa is also working with the engineering firm Uhde to develop a peroxide-based PO process.

UOP eyes new methanol route

UOP has been granted an award by NIST's Advanced Technology Program to develop new metal-peroxo catalysts for liquid-phase oxidation of methane to methanol. The process technology company says it will spend $5 million over three years on technology that could lower the cost of methanol from $80 per ton today to $58 per ton. The firm says the new route would allow the "monetization" of remote natural gas and provide a new precursor for chemicals such as ethylene and propylene. UOP's award is one of 32 announced by NIST last week.

DSM expands Stanyl polymer

DSM plans to build a plant for its Stanyl high-temperature nylon 4,6 polymer by the second half of 2007. Site selection is down to either Geleen, the Netherlands, or a location in China. The company expects to make a final decision next year. DSM has already announced a 20% capacity increase at its existing Stanyl plant in Geleen by the end of this year. Additionally, DSM will boost capacity in Geleen for a key raw material, diaminobutane, which can be shipped to the new plant wherever it will be built, the company says.

South American PET unit set

Mossi & Ghisolfi has plans to build a 450,000-metric-ton-per-year polyethylene terephthalate resin unit in South America by 2006. On the basis of its experience completing a similar-sized plant earlier this year in Altamira, Mexico, the company says the plant will cost a modest $70 million. It says the plant will incorporate new technology in both the melt-phase and solid-state production steps. In an apparent reference to Eastman Chemical's solid-state-free IntegRex process, announced last month, M&G says its solid-state technology "will reduce capital and operating costs to the level projected for crystallizers that are used in processes that claim the elimination of the solid-state step." Earlier this year, the firm mentioned Recife, Brazil, as a possible plant site.

Two firms up expectations ...

Agrium and Georgia Gulf, two commodity chemical companies in entirely different businesses, provided earnings estimates last week. Fertilizer producer Agrium says that, as a result of strong prices for its products, it is increasing its earnings guidance for the second half of the year to 65 cents per share, excluding unusual items, from its previous guidance of 45 to 50 cents per share. Meanwhile, Georgia Gulf says it will earn between 85 and 90 cents per share in the third quarter, thanks to greater than expected improvement in its aromatics business.

... and Cambrex cuts outlook

Cambrex has lowered its estimate for full-year earnings to a range of 90 cents to $1.00 per share from its previous guidance of $1.10 to $1.20. The revision is principally the result of postponed shipments. In its human health segment, the company is lowering its sales growth target to 4–5% from a previous 5–10% because of a delay in the approval of a generic active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and a client-postponed shipment of an API order until early 2005. In its biopharma segment, the company sees 10–15% sales growth instead of its previous target of 20–30%. A product shipment worth about $4 million has been postponed from the fourth quarter, and a $2 million project has been moved from the fourth quarter to early 2005.

Bayer buys producer of microreactors


Bayer's technology services unit has acquired Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik, a four-year-old maker of microreactor modules. Bayer thus joins competitors such as Sigma-Aldrich and Degussa that have begun to evaluate the commercial potential of these modular gram-scale devices. In August, Clariant established a competence center for microreaction technology in a push to develop the modules for making pharmaceutical ingredients.

PCS to expand phosphoric acid

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan plans to expand purified phosphoric acid capacity at its plant in Aurora, N.C., by 82,000 metric tons per year. The $73 million expansion, to be completed in 2006, will bring the firm's purified acid capacity to 327,000 metric tons. The new capacity will allow PCS to satisfy demand from industrial customers for the purified acid, which commands significantly higher gross margins than phosphate fertilizers, CEO William J. Doyle says.

Printing ink giant is born

BASF has sold its printing inks and printing plates businesses to private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners for an undisclosed price. At the same time, CVC has acquired Sweden's ANI Printing Inks, which was spun off from Akzo Nobel's coatings division in 2001. The investment firm intends to merge the two companies into a new printing systems specialty business that will have sales of nearly $1 billion per year. "We are making a decisive contribution to consolidation in a fragmented industry," says Christian Wildmoser, CVC managing director.

Wyeth to make Genentech drug

Genentech and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals have signed an agreement under which Wyeth will manufacture the active protein substance for Genentech's breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) at its Andover, Mass., facility. Cavan Redmond, executive vice president of Wyeth BioPharma, says the deal will boost his firm's efforts to build its biopharmaceutical business. Genentech currently makes Herceptin in Vacaville, Calif. Genentech also announced a collaboration with Celera Genomics to develop anticancer drugs. Celera will provide a number of cell-surface antigens discovered and validated through its proteomic platform as possible therapeutic targets. Genentech will make unspecified milestone and royalty payments.

Conductive pact formed

Dow Corning and Invint have agreed to jointly research and develop conductive polymer technologies for electronic interconnects. Invint, a Scotland-based specialist in conductive polymers, will develop and characterize Dow Corning organic and silicon-based conductive polymers as alternatives to traditional printed circuits. Potential uses include cell phones, "smart cards," and automotive electronics, Dow Corning says.

Merck licenses obesity drug

Merck & Co. has licensed an experimental obesity drug from Nastech Pharmaceutical. The deal involves peptide YY 3-36, a naturally occurring hormone produced by endocrine cells in the gut after a person eats, producing a feeling of fullness. While other firms such as Amylin Pharmaceuticals are developing injectable forms of PYY, Nastech has developed the peptide into a nasal spray. Nastech will receive an initial payment of $5 million. It will receive up to $131 million if all development and approval milestones are achieved and another $210 million in sales milestones.

Germany's Merck licenses to Genaissance

In a reverse of the typical deal between large and small drug companies, Merck KGaA is licensing its antidepressant vilazodone, currently in clinical trials, to Genaissance Pharmaceuticals. Under the agreement, Merck will receive up to $44 million worth of Genaissance shares for the initial license fee and milestone payments beyond that. Genaissance plans to begin patient enrollment for Phase II clinical testing of vilazodone, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, in the first half of 2005.

Deals signed in molecular diagnostics

Companies are jockeying for position as tools and markets for molecular diagnostics emerge. Solexa and Lynx Therapeutics have agreed to merge in a stock-based transaction that will combine intellectual property, technology, and staff to develop DNA-sequencing approaches based on molecular arrays. Solexa has technology and biochemistry to analyze single, unamplified molecules of DNA on arrays--not by sequencing them but by comparing the sample to a reference sequence. Setting its hopes on a different approach, Qiagen is paying $28.5 million for more than 160 patents from Molecular Staging, a company with proprietary technology for whole-genome amplification. The technology, Qiagen says, allows small samples to be expanded for molecular diagnostics applications by essentially creating copies of entire genomes.


Bayer's Lanxess unit will dismantle its hydrazine hydrate plant in Baytown, Texas, and relocate it to Weifang, China, where it will be operated by a joint venture with Weifang Yaxing Chemical. Bayer says the hydrazine plant will be one of the largest in the world when it reopens at the end of 2005.

Sumitomo Chemical expects its net profit in the first half of the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, to reach $225 million, 47% higher than it predicted earlier. The company says its petrochemicals, electronic materials, and agrochemicals businesses all performed better than hoped.

NuSil Technology has acquired GE Silicones' ingestible simethicone business for an undisclosed sum. Simethicone is used in over-the-counter gas-relief products and in endoscopic examinations.

Wacker-Chemie is selling its business in microporous insulation, used for specialty applications such as freezers, building insulation, and aerospace, to Porextherm Dämmstoffe. The unit, which employs 70 people in Kempten, Germany, had sales of about $24 million last year.

Stepan has purchased Comércio e Indústria de Produtos de Higiene e Limpeza, a subsidiary of Unilever Brazil, for an undisclosed amount. The company has 83,000 metric tons per year of anionic surfactant capacity in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Exelixis is acquiring X-Ceptor Therapeutics, a developer of small molecules that modulate nuclear hormone receptors, for 2.5 million shares of Exelixis stock and $2.9 million in cash. Exelixis says the deal increases its therapeutic breadth.

Accelrys is working with IBM to release a suite of molecular modeling and simulation software for the Linux operating system. Separately, Accelrys has signed an agreement to incorporate Sigma-Aldrich compound catalogs into its chemical suppliers database.


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