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Business Concentrates

November 14, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 46

Rhodia's pruning efforts progress

Rhodia has signed an agreement to sell one operation, has renegotiated a second deal, and will soon settle on a course of action for its fine chemicals unit as part of an effort to deal with what it calls nonstrategic activities. Rhodia has agreed to sell its latex business to Hexion Specialty Chemicals. The business manufactures latex dispersions and foam-control agents used in paints, construction mortars, and adhesives. It employs 440 people at eight facilities worldwide and had $175 million in sales in 2004. Rhodia also revised its letter of intent, signed in March, to form a textile fiber alliance with the Italian firms Snia and Radici Group. Instead, Rhodia and Snia will sell their Nylstar nylon-fiber joint venture to Radici for an undisclosed sum. Finally, in announcing third-quarter results, Rhodia reported that progress is being made in finding a long-term solution for its fine chemicals business. The firm had high hopes for the unit when it purchased ChiRex in 2000, but overcapacity in the fine chemicals market has caused a series of disappointments.

Degussa sets R&D center

Degussa will invest almost $60 million over the next five years in a new science-to-business center devoted to industrial biotechnology. The R&D commercialization lab, in Marl, Germany, is scheduled to begin operations early next year, joining a nanotronics center that was inaugurated in April. Degussa Chairman Utz-Hellmuth Felcht announced the new center at the company's fall press conference last week. Felcht also said Degussa and partner SolarWorld will invest in the high-double-digit million-euro range in a plant in Rheinfelden, Germany, with capacity for 850 metric tons per year of solar-panel-grade polycrystalline silicon.

Plants reopen post-Rita

Credit: Eastman Photo
Eastman's Eastotac hydrocarbon resin is used in tapes and other adhesive applications.
Credit: Eastman Photo
Eastman's Eastotac hydrocarbon resin is used in tapes and other adhesive applications.

Two firms have most of their operations back on-line following late-September shutdowns in advance of Hurricane Rita. Huntsman says its largest olefins facility in Port Arthur, Texas, is operating again. Though the facility suffered no serious structural damage, it required some repair. The lack of electrical power and limited supplies from a neighboring refinery further delayed the restart. And PPG Industries says its Lake Charles, La., complex is now operating at 80% of capacity.

Eastman hikes resins output

Eastman Chemical will expand two plants that make hydrocarbon resins for adhesives, caulks, and sealants. The capacity of its Nanjing Yangzi Eastman Chemical joint venture in Nanjing, China, called Asia-Pacific's largest hydrogenated hydrocarbon resins maker, will be expanded 30% to 52 million lb per year by May 2006. And the firm's Middelburg, the Netherlands, facility will be expanded 25%, to between 55 million and 65 million lb by September 2006.

Sigma-Aldrich to get new CEO

Credit: Sigma-Aldrich Photo
Credit: Sigma-Aldrich Photo

Jai Nagarkatti, 58, will become president and CEO of Sigma-Aldrich on Jan. 1, 2006, succeeding Chairman and CEO David R. Harvey, 66. Harvey will continue as chairman of the firm's board. Nagarkatti, a Ph.D. chemist, has been with Sigma-Aldrich for 29 years. He has been president and chief operating officer since August 2004 and previously served as president of the firm's main research division and its fine chemicals business.

Large complex eyed in Brazil

Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and ethylene oxide and derivatives firm Oxiteno are close to completing a feasibility study on a refining and petrochemical joint venture in Rio de Janeiro state that could cost as much as $6.5 billion. According to an Oxiteno official, the project calls for a heavy-oil-refining and deep-catalytic-cracking complex that will make 1.3 million metric tons of ethylene annually, plus coke, fuels, aromatics, and propylene. Oxiteno would build downstream ethylene oxide capacity. Local firm Suzano Petroqumica would build downstream polymers capacity, according to executive Jos Ricardo Roriz Coelho, who described the project at the Latin American Chemical & Petrochemical Association (APLA) meeting in Mexico City last week.

Lubrizol sells resins assets

Lubrizol has agreed to sell its Telene dicyclopentadiene resins assets to Rimtec, a Japanese firm jointly owned by Zeon and Teijin Chemicals. Telene had 2004 revenues of about $11 million. Rimtec is a distributor of Telene resins, which are used to make reaction injection molded parts for trucks and earth-moving equipment. This is Lubrizol's second divestment since it announced plans in July to sell assets with combined sales of $500 million. In September, it sold performance systems operations with annual sales of $20 million to Delft Instruments.

Thai study for Dow and Siam

Dow Chemical and Thailand's Siam Cement Group are studying an ethylene cracker in Rayong, Thailand, that would start up in 2010. Siam says it would have a 67% stake in the $1.1 billion partnership, which would have annual capacity for 900,000 metric tons of ethylene and also make propylene, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Dow and Siam Cement have several existing Thai joint ventures.

Roche claims more Tamiflu capacity

Accused of not doing enough to boost supply of its flu drug Tamiflu, Roche says it will have raised its global capacity to 300 million treatments per year by the end of 2006-a 10-fold increase over its 2004 capacity. Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza are among the few drugs that may be effective in treating avian flu. Roche says it has begun negotiating with eight drug companies among the 150 that have applied to license Tamiflu.

Grace acquires catalyst maker

W.R. Grace has acquired Single-Site Catalysts, a Chester, Pa.-based supplier of organometallic catalysts for polyolefin and elastomer production. Under the deal, SSC affiliate Norquay Technology will continue to manufacture catalysts for Grace. According to Vice President Anthony J. Dondero, the acquisition makes Grace the only full-range provider of single-site catalyst supports, metallocene components, and immobilization services.

IMS, VNU may halt merger …

The acquisition of IMS Health by VNU, the Dutch market intelligence company, announced this summer (C&EN, July 18, page 10), seems to be in trouble. VNU says it is having wide-ranging discussions with IMS now that stockholders claiming to represent 48% of VNU's shares say they don't support the deal. Although VNU says both firms back the transaction, they are discussing alternatives, including revision and termination.

… OSI seeks to delay deal

OSI Pharmaceuticals has informed Eyetech Pharmaceuticals that it wants to delay its purchase of Eyetech, which was scheduled to close on Nov. 14. Eyetech's main product is Macugen, a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to Eyetech, OSI's board wants to assess the possible impact of Genentech's Nov. 7 announcement that Lucentis, Genentech's AMD drug, works better than QLT's Visudyne, a third AMD drug. Eyetech contends that the Genentech announcement is not grounds to delay the $935 million deal.

Agrium bids for Royster

Agruim has made an unsolicited $274 million cash takeover offer for the outstanding Income Deposit Securities--a form of stock--of Royster-Clark, a U.S. agricultural retail chain with annual sales of more than $1 billion. Assumption of Royster's debt plus the purchase of minority interests in the company would bring the price to about $450 million. Agrium would fund the acquisition from cash on hand and available lines of credit. Royster says its board and an independent special committee are reviewing the bid.

Chemical jobs decline again

U.S. chemical employment fell in October for the third straight month, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Labor Department. Total chemical industry employment for that month was 875,800, down 900 from September and 8,700 from October 2004. The number of production workers fell by 400 from September to 511,500. October's count was down 11,300 from the comparable month last year. Meanwhile, the average workweek for October was 42.7 hours, up from 42.1 hours the month before and the same as it had been in October 2004.

Actions stop Chinese firms over ag chems

BASF and Bayer obtained injunctions against multiple Chinese agrochemical producers and stopped them from promoting their products at Crop Science & Technology 2005, an agrochemical trade show in Glasgow, Scotland. The Chinese companies were offering the BASF insecticides chlorfenapyr and fipronil and the fungicides epoxiconazole and kresoxim-methyl, all of which are patented by BASF in the U.K. They were also offering Bayer's U.K.-patented insecticide imadacloprid.

Schering slates chemical revamp

Schering AG wants to sell a pharmaceutical chemical plant in Orizaba, Mexico. The plant employs 250 people and will continue to operate until the sale, expected before 2008. At the same time, Schering says it will review chemical operations at its key Bergkamen, Germany, site. We have to increase the efficiency and flexibility of our chemical production worldwide, says executive board member Karin Dorrepaal.


Akzo Nobel will invest $28 million to expand output of Bermocoll brand cellulose derivatives in rnskldsvik, Sweden. The project will boost capacity around 25% by mid-2006, the company says.

Dow Chemical is building a plant near Moscow for its Styrofoam brand extruded polystyrene insulation board. The firm says it will be the first international producer of polystyrene board to invest in a plant in Russia.

Celanese Corp.'s board has authorized it to squeeze out the remaining shareholders of its Germany-based predecessor corporation, Celanese AG. A tender offer for the remaining Celanese AG shares will allow delisting on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Nanosys has raised about $40 million in a private equity funding that included In-Q-Tel, H.B. Fuller, and Intel Capital. Nanosys' dropped public stock offering in August 2004 marked a setback for nanotechnology firms in the stock market.

Cargill will build a 110 mil-lion-gal-per-year ethanol plant at its Blair, Neb., facility. The company says the project is the latest step in the plant's shift in focus toward industrial nonfood uses of corn, such as ethanol, bioplastics, and amino acids.

Sumitomo Chemical will spend $20 million for a 20% stake in Quantum Leap Packaging, a producer of electronics packaging based on high-molecular-weight polymers and liquid-crystal polymer technology.


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