Issue Date: June 27, 2011
DAK Americas, a subsidiary of the Mexican conglomerate ALFA, has agreed to purchase Wellman’s polyethylene terephthalate business for $185 million. The business operates a 950 million-lb-per-year PET plant in Pearl River, Miss., that is Wellman’s sole manufacturing asset and the last U.S.-owned PET business.
Wellman was once a publicly listed company with businesses in PET resin, polyester fibers, engineering polymer compounding, and even lanolin processing. However, the company declared bankruptcy in 2008 under the weight of high debt and rising raw material costs.
Under reorganization, the company closed a polyester fiber plant in Darlington, S.C., and sold its Johnsonville, S.C., polyester fiber and recycling operations to a consortium of private equity firms. Wellman managed to hold on to the Mississippi plant when it emerged from bankruptcy in early 2009.
The U.S. PET industry has become dominated by deep-pocketed foreign-owned firms keen on adding massive amounts of new capacity on the cheap. Earlier this year, DAK purchased Eastman Chemical’s U.S. PET business, and Thailand’s Indorama bought Invista’s North American polyester resin and fiber business. When it completes its purchase of Wellman later this year, DAK will be North America’s largest producer of PET, with a 37% share of capacity, according to C&EN estimates.
A DAK spokesman says the company is buying the Wellman business instead of building capacity because it is interested in acquiring a new manufacturing site. In addition, the company coveted Wellman’s ThermaClearTi technology, which makes PET via titanium catalysts for hot-fill applications such as fruit juice.
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