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Business Concentrates

April 11, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 15

Boehringer Ingelheim to build phenylephrine plant in the U.S

Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals will build a plant in Petersburg, Va., to produce phenylephrine hydrochloride, an active ingredient used in medications for nasal decongestion. BI calls itself the world's largest producer of phenylephrine, which is manufactured at its plant in Ingelheim, Germany. There is now no U.S. production of the drug. The company says demand for phenylephrine is growing worldwide, fueled by the need to replace pseudoephedrine in cough and cold products. Unlike phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine can be used as a precursor in making the illegal drug methamphetamine (C&EN, March 28, page 26). BI notes that 13 states have passed laws that control access to pseudoephedrine. In January, a group of 12 U.S. senators introduced a bill to limit consumer sales of medications containing pseudoephedrine. "The trend toward increasing the use of phenylephrine as an alternative to pseudoephedrine will escalate," says Anthony J. Corso, president of BI Chemicals.


Dow is developing styrene route

Dow Chemical and the Italian engineering firm Snamprogetti are jointly developing a new process for making styrene that uses ethane and benzene. Most styrene today is made by reacting ethylene and benzene to form ethylbenzene, which is then dehydrogenated to styrene in the presence of an iron catalyst. Carol A. Dudley, Dow's vice president of R&D for hydrocarbons and chemicals, says the new process would use the low-cost feedstock ethane and eliminate the need to make or buy ethylene. According to Dow, a process development unit has been in operation since late 2002.



Ciba opens R&D center

Ciba Specialty Chemicals has opened a coatings technical center in Newport, Del. The facility consolidates coatings additives capabilities previously in Tarrytown, N.Y., with pigments and EFKA Additives expertise already in Newport. In addition, Ciba makes quinacridone and diketo-pyrrolo-pyrrole pigments in Newport.


Genentech, Curis add to alliance

Drug development firm Curis and Genentech will work together to discover and develop small-molecule modulators of an undisclosed pathway affecting cell proliferation in certain cancers. Under the deal, Genentech will pay an up-front fee of $3 million and up to an additional $6 million over the next two years to access Curis' drug development technologies, which employ proteins and small molecules to modulate pathways that control cell repair and regeneration. Total payments to Curis, including milestones and royalties, could exceed $140 million. This is the second collaboration between the companies.


Grace takes concrete action

W.R. Grace has acquired the concrete admixtures business of Perstorp in Sweden for an undisclosed price. Perstorp will retain its mortar additives business. Admixtures are sold to ready-mix and precast concrete producers and civil contractors. The acquisition provides Grace with the platform it needs to accelerate growth in construction products in Northern Europe, according to Fred Festa, president and chief operating officer.


PQ shuffles management

PQ Corp. is changing its leadership in the wake of its acquisition in February by JPMorgan Partners. CEO Stanley W. Silverman departed after the sale and has been replaced by Michael R. Boyce, a chemical industry veteran who has worked for firms such as General Chemical, Harris Chemical, and Peak Investments. Jim Cox, a longtime PQ employee, was named chief financial officer on April 1, replacing Bill Levy. Scott Randolph, previously with Peak Investments, was named president of PQ's Potters Industries unit, replacing Jerry Sheridan.


Monsanto sells Enviro-Chem

Monsanto has agreed to sell its Enviro-Chem Systems business to the management of the subsidiary, which is led by President Pankaj J. (P. J.) Desai. The business provides engineering, procurement, and construction management for plants that use sulfuric acid. It also makes and sells air pollution control systems. The unit employs approximately 200 people, about 80% of whom are in the U.S.


Dow expands global glycols

Dow Chemical says improvements at its ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol plants since 2002 have increased its global output of these chemicals by 11%. The company operates five EO/EG sites--three in the U.S. and one each in the U.K. and the Netherlands. Combined annual capacity is 4.3 billion lb of EO and 3.9 billion lb of EG. The firm says the improvements came with little capital expense through the Six Sigma methodology, process automation, and process improvements.


Textile fibers venture planned

Nylstar, a 50-50 nylon fibers joint venture of Rhodia and Snia, is forming a joint venture with Italy's Radici Group in the textile fibers market. The companies say the venture will have annual sales of more than $1 billion in nylon, polyester, elastane, and acrylic textile fibers. It will be mostly held by Radici, whose RadiciFibres unit had sales last year of about $765 million. Rhodia and Snia will share the remainder. Nystar had sales last year of about $555 million.


Solvay 'home' with bicarb production

Solvay will begin making sodium bicarbonate at its Bernburg, Germany, site by the end of the year in a new unit with annual capacity for 100,000 metric tons. Solvay says the project follows its recent acquisition of American Soda and underpins its intention to become a global supplier of sodium bicarbonate. Bernburg, near Leipzig in eastern Germany, was one of Solvay's earliest production sites until it was confiscated by the Nazi government in 1939. Solvay regained the site in 1991 and has made a series of investments there.


Honeywell lets waxes slip

Honeywell has sold its industrial wax operations in Eupen, Belgium; and Suzhou, China, to the Netherlands-based Paramelt. While the price was not disclosed, Honeywell says the two operations had 2004 sales of $48 million. The firm did not sell its U.S.-based wax operations but intends to do so when it has a buyer. Honeywell adds that it plans to hold onto other specialty materials businesses, including performance additives, lubricants for vinyl, and luminescent pigments.


Three deals are completed

Sigma-Aldrich, Engelhard, and Kemira all completed acquisitions last week. Sigma-Aldrich has inked the purchase of Degussa's Proligo Group, a global supplier of tools for DNA and RNA synthesis. Proligo had 2004 sales of $40 million. Engelhard has acquired an almost 78% stake in France's Coletica for about $64 million. Coletica develops skin care compounds and related technologies for the personal care industry. Finally, Kemira has bought Dutch specialty chemicals firm Verdugt for about $187 million. Verdugt claims to be the world's largest maker of organic salts.

Lanxess sells line to Chinese

Lanxess has sold a plant making the blowing agent azodicarbonamide, known as Porofor, to the Chinese firm Weifang Yaxing Chemicals. The plant will be moved from Leverkusen, Germany, to Weifang in China's Shandong province. Lanxess says it will continue to supply its customers with Porofor through a purchase agreement. Lanxess is in the process of dismantling a hydrazine plant in Baytown, Texas, and moving it to Weifang, where it will be operated in a joint venture with Weifang Yaxing.


Chlorine kills 29 in China

Chinese authorities are expressing concern over hazardous materials management following the death of at least 29 people on March 29 when a truck carrying chlorine collided with another vehicle near Nanjing. The chlorine tanker burst a tire and rammed into another truck on a highway linking Shanghai and Beijing. Some 10,000 residents of nearby villages were evacuated following the accident; they were allowed to return home three days later. The government of Shanghai ordered that all trucks carrying chemicals--more than 1,600 of them--be equipped with global positioning systems before year's end, the Shanghai Daily reported.


Employment rises slightly

U.S. chemical industry employment increased for the first time this year in March, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department data, but the employment rise was just 400, to 876,000. March employment was still down 13,200 from the comparable month in 2004. While total employment was showing a slight increase, the number of hourly production workers in March fell 2,300 from February to 510,800 and was off 7,900 from March of last year.


Teijin exits fibers venture

Teijin will book a loss of $120 million after selling its Mexican polyester subsidiary Teijin Akra. Teijin acquired a 50% stake in the unit in 1999 from local company Alpek and bought a further 25% stake in 2001. The Japanese manufacturer will now sell its stake in Akra back to Alpek. Akra recorded a $23 million loss in 2004. Teijin says Asian competitors have been strengthened by the financial crisis of the late 1990s, which made regional currencies weaker.


Rhodia plans China diphenols

Rhodia will build a 12,000-metric-ton-per-year plant near Shanghai producing catechol and hydroquinone. It expects the unit to come on-line early in 2007. Part of the catechol output will feed a nearby guaiacol unit that Rhodia operates in a joint venture with Japan's Ube Industries. The guaiacol plant in turn feeds a Rhodia vanillin unit in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai.


  • Innocentive, the website that pays for solutions to scientific problems, has signed a cooperation agreement with the department of chemistry at China's Tsinghua University. Innocentive says more of its problem solvers now come from China than from the U.S. 

  • Bayer HealthCare has completed the sale of its worldwide plasma products business to Talecris BioTherapeutics, a newly formed corporation controlled by Cerberus Capital Management and Ampersand Ventures. The overall value of the sale was about $590 million.

  • Cargill will expand its agreement to develop Materia's olefin metathesis technology for converting vegetable oils to industrial chemicals. The new agreement expands Cargill's field of research and provides Materia with more funding.

  • Hercules has received a court opinion in a Superfund site cleanup case that, if upheld on appeal, would make it liable for more than $95 million. The case involves a facility in Jacksonville, Ark., formerly owned by Hercules and other firms.

  • Formosa Plastics has been fined $300,000 by OSHA following the deadly explosion a year ago at its Illiopolis, Ill., plant. The company has agreed to employ at least one independent chemical process safety consultant during the rebuilding of the facility.

  • Celanese will sell its Vectran polyarylate fiber unit to Kuraray America. The unit had 2004 sales of about $6 million.



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