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Business Concentrates

October 11, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 41

U.S. faces shortage of flu vaccine

Chiron's manufacturing license for flu vaccine has been suspended for three months, leaving the U.S. to face a shortage of vaccine for flu season. For now, U.K. authorities have barred Chiron from releasing any batches of its flu vaccine, Fluvirin, made at its Liverpool, England, plant. Following the suspension, Chiron cut its 2004 earnings forecast in half, its stock fell by 16%, and a number of investment firms reduced their ratings of Chiron stock. CEO Howard Pien expressed regret that the firm is "unable to meet public health needs this season." The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying the loss of the flu vaccine "poses a serious challenge to our vaccine supply." According to HHS, a total of 100 million doses had been planned as supply for this season. Chiron was to produce between 46 million and 48 million doses. Now, the agency estimates receiving approximately 54 million doses of vaccine from Aventis and about 1 million to 2 million doses of FluMist nasal spray from MedImmune. The U.K.'s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said Chiron's failure to comply with Good Manufacturing Practices led to "concerns of possible microbial contamination of product."

Borden plans Bakelite buy

Borden Chemical has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Bakelite, the German phenolic and epoxy resins maker, from its parent, Rütgers. The purchase will add $610 million to Borden's $1.4 billion in annual sales of mostly phenolic and urea formaldehyde resins and create a large player in thermosetting resins. Borden CEO Craig O. Morrison adds that Bakelite's largely non-North American business will complement Borden's largely North American one. The purchase comes just months after Borden was sold by one private-equity owner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, to another, Apollo Management.

Henkel buys and sells

Henkel has agreed to buy Sovereign Specialty Chemicals from the investor group AEA Investors for $575 million. Sovereign, which makes specialty adhesives and sealants, had sales of $391 million in its most recent fiscal year. Henkel Chairman Ulrich Lehner says the deal gives his company "an important position in the U.S. craftsmen segment" and "an excellent complement to our industrial businesses." Separately, Clorox has agreed to pay Henkel $2.84 billion to buy back the 28.8% stake that Henkel has long held in the consumer products maker. The deal will help Henkel finance its $2.9 billion acquisition of Dial Corp., agreed to earlier this year. It also decreases the likelihood that Henkel will sell its stake in another U.S. firm, Ecolab.

Fuller invests in glass tech

H.B. Fuller's venture-capital arm has invested in Sage Electrochromics, which has a technology for reducing the amount of light and heat that can pass through glass without reducing glass transparency. Unlike other electrochromic glass technologies, the companies say, Sage's yields a glass durable enough for commercial use. Fuller says the investment is strategic because of its own business in insulating glass sealants, thermal barriers, and glazing compounds. The venture-capital unit--which H.B. Fuller started last year--has invested in the biobased adhesives company EcoSynthetix and the nanotechnology company Nanosys.

Bayer readies Lanxess split ...

Bayer will grant its shareholders one Lanxess share for every 10 Bayer shares held when the company spins off the new chemical unit. If the move is approved by 75% of shareholders at a Nov. 17 meeting, Lanxess will be listed on the stock market at the beginning of 2005. Bayer CEO Werner Wenning says he is convinced that "as an independent enterprise, [Lanxess] will have more scope to improve its competitiveness in the future." Lanxess will carry with it most of Bayer's chemical businesses and about one-third of its polymer operations, leaving Bayer to concentrate on health care, crop science, and high-tech materials. Lanxess has annual sales of just under $8 billion, which would put it in the top 25 of the world's largest chemical producers, according to C&EN's annual ranking.

... while Total debuts Arkema

France's Total has picked Arkema as the new name for its chemical arm, which it created in February out of its chlorochemicals, intermediates, and performance products units. Legally established on Oct. 1 and headed by CEO Thierry Le Henaff, Arkema has annual sales of about $6 billion and a workforce of 19,300. Total plans to separate Arkema in 2006 via a spin-off or initial public offering.

Etiologics and Argenta merge

Argenta Discovery, a contract-research-oriented company, and Etiologics, a drug development company, are merging. Current investors in the U.K. firms, which include ABN AMRO Capital, 3i, and TTP Ventures, are putting $10.5 million into the new company, to be called Argenta Discovery. Etiologics was founded in 2002 and last year acquired Bayer's U.K. respiratory research group. Argenta was started in August 2000 by scientists from Aventis Pharmaceuticals Research Centre and ChemMedICa, a spin-off from Imperial College London. The combined company will employ about 120.  

Sigma-Aldrich goes transgenic

Sigma-Aldrich Fine Chemicals will help fund efforts by Chlorogen to develop reagents and cell cultures based on tobacco plant proteins. Rather than introducing a gene into a plant cell nucleus, Chlorogen's chloroplast transformation technology (CCT) introduces a new gene into the approximately 100 chloroplasts within a plant cell, each of which contains about 100 copies of the plant's genetic structure. Chlorogen claims that CTT can produce about 10,000 copies of the introduced gene per plant cell, as opposed to only one or two via nuclear transformation. Sigma-Aldrich already distributes TrypZean, an animal-free recombinant trypsin produced with ProdiGene's transgenic plant system.

ZymoGenetics signs new deal

ZymoGenetics has given Novo Nordisk exclusive worldwide rights to its recombinant Factor XIII portfolio. Under the agreement, Novo Nordisk will pay ZymoGenetics $15 million upon signing and up to $62 million in additional milestone payments related to the blood-clotting protein. Earlier this year, ZymoGenetics gave Novo Nordisk the North American rights to its patents covering interleukin-20, a cytokine being developed as a psoriasis drug. Also this year, ZymoGenetics signed a protein development partnership with Serono under which Serono took an 8.1% stake in the firm worth $50 million.


Airgas supplies SpaceShipOne

SpaceShipOne, the private spaceship that just won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for commercial manned spaceflight, was powered with liquid nitrous oxide supplied by Airgas. The ship is equipped with a unique hybrid motor that uses nitrous oxide as an oxidizer and hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene as the fuel (C&EN Online Latest News, Oct. 7). Scaled Composites, the rocket's creator, says nitrous oxide is a safer oxidizer than oxygen.

Bayer admits to price-fixing

Bayer Corp. has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $33 million fine for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of adipic acid-based polyester polyols. According to a one-count felony charge, Bayer conspired from 1998 to 2002 with another, unnamed, producer to eliminate competition in the product, used in a variety of strength-improving applications. Bayer has agreed to help the government in its ongoing investigation.

BASF in deal with Solvias

BASF will work with Solvias, a specialist in asymmetric hydrogenation technologies, to produce optically active intermediates for the life sciences industry. "The ligands provided by Solvias will allow us to act in response to more customer queries, using the best technology in each individual case," says Karin Sperling, BASF director of new business development for chemical intermediates. BASF already markets optically active products under the trade name ChiPros.

Degussa plans Shanghai complex

Degussa has reserved more than 170 acres of land at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park to build several chemical facilities in the coming years. Initially, the German firm will invest about $12 million to build a plant making polyesters for the coatings industry. The plant is scheduled to go on-line in 2006. A spokeswoman says Degussa is entering the Chinese market step-by-step. Earlier this year, the company inaugurated an R&D facility in Shanghai that will work closely with the emerging production facilities, she says.

Japanese firms restart benzene

Mitsui Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, and Idemitsu Kosan have agreed to spend $70 million to revive a mothballed benzene plant at Idemitsu's Chiba refinery near Tokyo. The 250,000-metric-ton-per-year light naphtha reformer, idle since 1999, is expected to reopen in mid-2006. Sumitomo and Mitsui both operate petrochemical plants in Chiba and will share the benzene on a 50–50 basis. Mitsui says it is planning to expand production of phenol and purified terephthalic acid, but that the availability of feedstock benzene has been tight in recent months.


Clariant has completed the sale of three units. Its AZ Electronic Materials business went to private-equity firm Carlyle Group, its Lancaster Synthesis unit to Johnson Matthey, and its 25% stake in SF-Chem to equity firm Capvis.

Wacker has sold its ADDID surface coating additives business to Degussa's oligomers and silicones unit. Degussa will assume worldwide brand and distribution rights to the additives effective Oct. 1.

Givaudan has named Gilles Andrier to succeed Jürg Witmer as CEO, effective April 27, 2005. Witmer will become the new board chairman. Andrier, 43, is currently head of the company's global fine fragrance business.

DuPont and Samsung group company Cheil Industries will launch a joint venture producing DuPont's Pyralux-brand adhesiveless flexible copper-clad laminates at Cheil's Gumi site in South Korea. The material helps to increase the density of flexible circuits.

Akzo Nobel has agreed to sell its ultraviolet/electron-beam-curing resins business to Cray Valley, part of France's Total. The business had 2003 sales of roughly $32 million and includes plants in Eccles, U.K., and New Brunswick, N.J.

Great Lakes Chemical has sold WIL Research Laboratories, a toxicological services business, to private-equity firm Behrman Capital for $105 million. CEO Mark Bulriss says Great Lakes will focus on its core industrial and consumer businesses.

Chiral Quest will open a facility in Jiashan, China, by the end of the year. The Monmouth Junction, N.J., company says the plant will provide cost-effective raw materials to complement its chiral technologies.

ExxonMobil Chemical has bought out Basell's 50% interest in Compagnie Industrielle des Polyéthylènes de Normandie, a producer of linear low-density polyethylene, including metallocene-based resins, in Notre-Dame-de-Gravenchon, France. Basell says it will continue to serve the polyethylene marketplace using its own technology.


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