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Business Concentrates

December 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 50

DSM revamps anti-infectives unit

Responding to what it terms "very poor market conditions," DSM's anti-infectives business will close its Dutch plants in Delft for production of the penicillin-based 6-APA (6-amino penicillanic acid) and in Geleen for production of a key intermediate in the first half of next year. And it will end a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline in the U.K. for production of 6-APA. To lower costs, it will instead step up production of antibiotics in India and China, including production by a recent penicillin joint venture with North China Pharmaceutical Group (C&EN, Nov. 29, page 10). However, DSM will strengthen its position in the specialty antibiotic 7-ADCA (7-aminodeacetoxycephalosporanic acid) in Delft, as well as in several other penicillin products based on its own enzyme technology. About 400 jobs will be lost because of the restructuring, the company says, of which 250 will be in the Netherlands. The moves by DSM are underscored by press reports that Bayer wants to divest its anti-infectives research by the middle of 2005.

Rohm and Haas restructures, to buy stock

Rohm and Haas is embarking on a restructuring that will result in the elimination of about 200 positions. The firm will take an $18 million pretax charge to cover the move, which will be in the administrative sector as well as the adhesives and sealants, electronic materials, and coatings businesses. The initiative is expected to be completed by September 2005 and result in annual cost savings of about $27 million. Separately, the firm has authorized the repurchase of up to $1 billion of its common stock through 2008, depending on market conditions and other priorities for cash.

M&G buys Chemtex

Polyethylene terephthalate maker Mossi & Ghisolfi has purchased polyester, refining, and petrochemical engineering company Chemtex from Mitsubishi Corp. for an undisclosed sum. Chemtex had revenues of $160 million in 2003 and employs about 750 people. It has a market share in polyester plant construction of about 30% globally and 60% in the emerging market of China. It was the contractor for M&G plants in Italy and Mexico and for the production line M&G is planning in South America. In 2000, M&G sold a nother polyester engineering company, Sinco, to UOP.

Fuel additive gets green light


Envirox, a nanotechnology-supported fuel additive developed by Oxonica, has been adopted by Stagecoach Group, operator of a 7,000-bus fleet in the U.K. Envirox is based on one of the oxidation catalysts widely used in catalytic converters, but has been reengineered by Oxonica using in-house nanotechnology expertise to allow it to be delivered as a fuel-borne catalyst. Stagecoach's trials showed the additive yields a 5% cut in fuel consumption and lower vehicle emissions. Oxonica is a spin-off from the University of Oxford.

Drew launches technology for water treatment

Ashland Specialty Chemical's Drew Industrial water treatment division is launching Sonoxide, a water treatment system meant to combat algae, bacteria, and biofilms in industrial water systems. Drew says the technology uses high-frequency ultrasonic energy rather than chemical biocides. It has already been tested in applications such as cooling towers and process water systems. The company claims that the system offers "major improvement in microbial control in an environmentally considerate fashion, without worker safety issues."

BASF revamps liquid coatings

BASF is restructuring its liquid coatings operations in North America. The company will end production of automotive liquid coatings in Morganton, N.C., cutting about 100 jobs, and transfer operations to Decatur, Ala.; Greenville, Ohio; Tultitlan, Mexico; and Windsor, Ontario. The transfer is set to be complete by June 30, 2005. A powder coatings unit at Morganton will continue to operate with a staff of about 10.

UCB opens big drug active unit

UCB has opened a $40 million facility at its Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium, site for production of the active ingredient in its Keppra antiepilepsy drug. UCB says the new plant employs 170 workers and adds 150 metric tons per year of capacity for the drug to the 80 metric tons that it operates in Bulle, Switzerland. The plant, called the largest of its kind in the world, uses simulating moving-bed chromatography to separate the drug's enantiomers.

Dow is object of Bhopal hoax

Dow Chemical's stock price slipped after BBC World issued a bogus television report that the firm had accepted full responsibility for the Bhopal, India, disaster and would pay $12 billion in compensation. Dow's share price fell 3.4% in trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on Dec. 3 after the 24-hour news service interviewed a purported Dow spokesman in Paris. Dec. 3 was the 20th anniversary of the disaster. A Dow spokeswoman promptly denied the report. When the market opened in New York, shares soon began to trade above their opening price. BBC apologized for the false report. The hoaxer later told BBC that he was part of the Yes Men, a group that pokes fun at business and governments. Two years ago, the Yes Men put up a bogus website spoofing Dow.

Union lockouts end and begin

The Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union (PACE) says a three-and-a-half-year lockout of 86 workers has ended at Continental Carbon's carbon black plant in Ponca City, Okla. Union members ratified a new five-year contract on Dec. 2 by a three-to-one margin. A new union lockout has begun, however. Polymer maker Omnova Solutions has locked out about 160 United Steelworkers members at its Jeannette, Pa., plant after what it says were six months of stalled negotiations.

More upheaval in COX-2 drugs

The COX-2 class of painkillers continues to be roiled following the withdrawal of Merck's Vioxx. According to Prudential Equity Group analyst Timothy Anderson, Pfizer's Bextra (valdecoxib) will carry a warning about health risks for patients who have undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The label had recently been changed to include a so-called black box warning about a potentially lethal skin reaction. Novartis has pulled its EU application for Prexige (lumiracoxib) pending the outcome of a review of all COX-2 inhibitors by the European Medicines Agency. Prexige is sold in Latin America, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Novartis says it plans to file for U.S. approval in 2007. GlaxoSmithKline has a COX-2 painkiller in its pipeline called 406381. The firm has been planning to file for approval in 2006 but is in discussions with regulators at this time. Merck, meanwhile, says it has appointed a special board committee to review its actions prior to the Vioxx withdrawal.

Celgene deal in thalidomide

Celgene and Pharmion are modifying their thalidomide collaboration. Celgene will now receive $77 million in return for a "substantial reduction" in the price that Pharmion pays for thalidomide, giving Pharmion a greater revenue stake in the thalidomide business. Pharmion has also agreed to pay Celgene an additional $8 million for thalidomide development. Celgene acquired thalidomide producer Penn T in October. Thalidomide, a drug associated with birth defects, is being explored as a treatment for autoimmune diseases and cancer.

November jobs increase

U.S. chemical employment increased by 1,200 jobs in November from the previous month, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Labor Department. The November figure was still 4,100 below the comparable month of last year. Meanwhile, the number of production workers rose by 600 from October and was up 5,400 from November 2003. Average weekly hours of production, however, fell slightly to 42.5 from 42.7 in both the previous month and the same month a year ago.

Feed additive makers fined

The European Commission has imposed fines totaling nearly $85 million on members of a cartel that controlled prices for choline chloride from 1992 to 1997. Three European companies--Akzo Nobel, BASF, and UCB--were hit with fines on the feed additive. Three North American firms--Bioproducts, DuCoa, and Chinook--were also involved, but their participation ended more than five years before the investigation began in 1999, so they escaped fines. The EC says the six companies controlled 80% of the world market, worth about $225 million at the time the cartel was active.

Degussa, Lonza expand in China

Degussa has agreed to buy an 80% stake in Changchun Jida High Performance Materials, a subsidiary of Jilin University in Changchun, northern China. Jida and Degussa will jointly develop and produce polyether ether ketone and polyether sulfone, broadening Degussa's slate of high-performance polymers beyond nylon 12 and polybutylene terephthalate. Lonza, meanwhile, has opened a new R&D center in Guangzhou that will focus on custom chemicals. The center employs 10 people and is to be expanded next year. Lonza has produced niacinamide, a B-complex vitamin, in Guangzhou since 1999 and is building a new niacinamide plant there, set to open next spring.

BASF to boost MDI in Antwerp

BASF will expand the capacity of its methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) plant in Antwerp, Belgium, by 25% to 450,000 metric tons per year. The expansion of the plant, which BASF says is the world's largest for MDI, is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of next year. The extra capacity is intended primarily to meet increasing demand for MDI in Europe, although some will supply the Asian market.


Arch Chemicals has opened a personal care ingredients factory in Suzhou, China. The facility will supply Biodynes tissue-respiratory-factor skin care ingredients to cosmetics formulators in China and other parts of Asia.

Pemex has selected ABB Lummus technology for an upgrade of its ethylene cracker in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The project will add tertiary refrigeration technology as part of a 40% capacity expansion at the site to 850,000 metric tons per year in 2007.

ChemBridge has signed a five-year discovery chemistry agreement with Merck. The collaboration between the two firms started in 2001 and will now extend through 2009.

Kalexsyn, a pharmaceutical chemistry outsourcing firm started by former Pharmacia scientists, has expanded twice in its first year of operation. The firm now employs 11 chemists in 6,000 sq ft of lab space at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Codexis has signed a research collaboration with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries under which Codexis will use its MolecularBreeding technology to develop an improved route to a currently marketed fermentation-based drug. Teva has a similar deal with Codexis competitor Microbia.

Solutia's pharmaceutical services division has commissioned a plant for a highly potent drug at its Bubendorf, Switzerland, site. In addition, Solutia says the division's CarboGen and AMCIS units have added two 2,500-L reactors between them.


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